Derek Boogard

Recently deceased Rangers’ forward Derek Boogard (above).

The local papers brought more to light regarding this tragic incident today.  Larry Brooks of the New York Post was the first from our local media to report that Boogard had been involved in the league and player’s association recovery program.  Brooks did not break that story nationally, as it was first reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, but he did mention that Boogard had returned to the team in April and then sought permission from Rangers’ President Glen Sather to leave the team in order to further pursue recovery.  Rangers Daily News beat reporter Jesse Spector also reported this, as well as the family’s decision to donate Boogard’s remains to the important scientific research on CTE being done by Boston University.  More from Spector:

It also was a day of very sad and uncomfortable questions, both about the reactions of the people close to Boogaard and the situation that now will unfold in the aftermath of his death. Perhaps the most awkward query of the day was the last one, as I just learned that, as you might expect, the remaining three years on Boogaard’s contract do not count against the salary cap. It turns out that under the CBA, death is the same as retirement from a salary cap standpoint – according to the NHLPA, had Boogaard been over 35 years old when he signed his contract, the rest of the contract would have remained in effect against the cap.

The major developments of the day were that a source said Boogaard was involved in the NHLPA/NHL Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program, which could have been for any number of off-ice issues, and that, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune first reported, Boogaard’s family has agreed to donate his brain to scientific research with the Boston University program that has made so many recent breakthroughs with posthumous examinations of NHL enforcer Bob Probert and dozens of NFL players.

Whatever substance issues Boogard struggled with, we are confident that proper scientific testing will reveal were linked to the fatal disease CTE, and that Boogard will be the youngest hockey player diagnosed.  Yesterday, we called for the league to do more to protect the players.  Today, we will ask the New York Rangers to also do something, considering this tragedy and the missed diagnosis of a concussion on Rangers star Marian Gaborik by team doctors this winter.

Crack (,

Rangers forward Derek Boogard (above), found dead in his Minnesota apartment yesterday.

Boogard came to the team as a big ticket replacement for Jody Shelley, a tough as nails fighter, who had done the tough job of being an enforcer for the team, and was one that other players feared.  So when Boogard joined the team early last summer, all 6’8″ of him, with his imposing reputation preceding him, a young man who tough guys were reluctant to fight with because of his quick hands and menacing size, many Ranger fans were just fine with the transaction, as in hockey, unfortunately, teams need someone scary to keep their high end talent safe.

Frankly, there’s a lot wrong with the game, and so is this.  We have been debating internally our stance on fighting in the game since we read a whole bunch about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, related mostly to ex-football players, but also to Bob Probert, a legendary NHL tough guy.  We know the league is also looking hard at fighting as well, with arguably its best player, Sidney Crosby, wrung up soundly with a concussion from which he has not recovered.  Will the golden boy whom the NHL has swung just about all of its marketing impetus behind ever be the same?

There is some question.  Derek Boogard was the type of player a team would acquire to keep players like Crosby unencumbered.  It’s thankless work.  And some, in hockey circles, can’t understand how a guy that gets 3 or 4 minutes of ice a game and who isn’t counted on for his playing skills, can occupy a seat on the bench, taking away opportunity from a more talented player, and can earn so much in the process.  The Rangers paid Derek Boogard in excess of one million dollars a year.

It’s a blood sport.  As much as we have always been fans of seeing our guy kick the hell out of the other guy, the concept of the enforcer has become barbaric to us, and always should have been.  We’re surprised more haven’t perished, and we are seriously concerned that there is no really effective way to protect top end talent, which is a dark notion for the league that gets worse ratings than NASCAR.

But Sidney Crosby isn’t on the sidelines because of a fight or what an enforcer could or couldn’t do.  There’s no way to keep players safe.  They are bigger and faster than ever, stronger than ever, and the collisions and impacts, in our humble opinion, are leaving imprints that are the same as the ones being suffered by guys like Dave Duerson, who recently shot himself in the chest with a shotgun, and left his brain to science.

Jeff Klein of the New York Times offers a much better obituary on Boogard than we ever could.  Here’s part of it:

 In poll after poll of N.H.L. players it was always a landslide: Derek Boogaard was the toughest, most feared fighter in the league.

Signed to a four-year contract averaging $1.6 million a year, Boogaard played just 22 games for the Rangers.

So fearsome was the hulking Boogaard that last summer the Rangers signed him to a four-year contract at an average of $1.6 million per year —far higher than most enforcers command.

His most significant hockey statistic was 6-foot-7, 265-pound. Playing a handful of shifts a game, he scored only three goals in 277 career games over six seasons, but amassed 589 penalty minutes including 70 fights. In one stretch of almost five years, he went 234 consecutive games without scoring, the longest drought in league history. In drills at the Rangers’ training camp last year, he trailed behind the other players, winded, as he had done at camps with his previous team, the Minnesota Wild.

Boogaard, 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment by members of his family on Friday, and within hours his fellow players — including those he sometimes fought — were sending messages of condolence through the social media.

Sgt. Bill Palmer, a spokesman for the Minneapolis police, said Boogaard was dead when emergency medical technicians arrived. He said the police do not suspect foul play because Boogaard’s body showed no sign of physical trauma.

Palmer said the police would not comment about a possible cause of death until the medical examiner’s office completed toxicology tests after an autopsy performed Saturday. A final report is expected to be released in about two weeks, he said.

Boogaard was remembered fondly by former teammates in Minnesota and New York and by former fighting opponents.     

Boogard had a fight with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner in early December, suffered a concussion, and was yet to return.   You can see video of that fight below.

As for us, we don’t have a lot to say about the man because his stay was so short here.  We liked his acquisition, and his attitude, but he only played in a handful of games.  On not scoring in over 200 games consecutively, we remember how Boogard enthusiastically proclaimed in an interview before the season opener, that he planned on getting off the snide that night.  We were happy to see him get that first goal in so long a few games later.

We’d hate to conjecture about the dead, but we would not be surprised if Boogard suffered from CTE.  Whether or not that’s the case, we are calling for the league to do whatever’s necessary to make the game safer.

Crack (,

Artem Anisimov (blue) pays the price to make a play against the hated New Jersey Devils (above).

Rangers’ coach John Tortorella recently announced that captain Chris Drury would return to the lineup tonight in Pittsburgh.  On its own, the declaration did nothing to stir our confidence.  Drury is a hard working guy, a stand up guy, but let’s be frank–he hasn’t lived up to his $35M contract and the last really clutch goal he scored was against, not for, the Rangers.  It was the way Torts said it that was such music to my ears, the song of angels to long time fans of the team.  The coach said Drury will play but that “no kids are coming out.”  Tortorella went on to say that it would be veterans who lose ice time and that a veteran would be a healthy a scratch, and that it was too bad for them.  “He’s the captain,” Tortorella would say.  “Everybody’s gotta sacrafice.”

On Sunday night the New York Rangers played perhaps their best game against a quality opponent in years, shutting out the Capitals 7-0.  It was the most lopsided shutout victory the team has had since 1970 (and my wife deleted it off the tivo before I saw the 4 goal 2nd period–an “important” American Idol will be deleted in retaliation).  The Rangers have a quality team because of the kids they’ve developed and refused to trade.  And a lot of them are kids no more.  Anisimov, the 6’4, 220 lbs. center iceman, may have slumped a bit as all players do, but he’s a leading scorer and a cog on the team’s best line, which flat out beats opposing units up physically on the wall and with its relentless cycle.  The line is so good that it allowed the Rangers to withstand almost a month without world class forward Marian Gaborik, and so good that on most nights since returning, Gabby has been a compliment and not that absolute focal point he’s been on every team he has played on in his life, including the Slovak national team that’s chock full of talent up front.

Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi who had us pulling our hair out as recently as all of last year, have grown into cornerstones of the team, and now even look polished offensively.  Imposing rookie defenseman Michael Sauer won the Rangers a game last week in Ottawa with a well placed point shot in the clutch.  Team USA stalwart Ryan Callahan, perennially our extra effort award winner, does everything for this team but drive the Zambonie, and is loathe to miss a shift despite being a league leader in both hits and blocked shots.  We feel that Drury is keeping the captain’s C warm for him.

Derek Stepan has been a rookie sensation and now, playing consistently with Gaborik, expect him to flourish even more.  The core of youth has played so well that it can carry a guy like Michael Del Zotto, a sophomore defenseman who looks lost out there and who’s struggling very badly.  Then there’s team scoring leader and maybe the manliest man of the bunch, emerging star power forward Brandon Dubinsky, recently seen screaming at and giving the look of death to the Ottawa bench, last seen, kicking Alexander Ovechkin’s ass all over the ice on Sunday.  You think Dubinsky will be fired up tonight to face his best girlfriend Cindy Crosby, who cheaply and classlessly gave Ryan Callahanthe slew foot in the 2 team’s last meeting?

Whatever happens tonight, New York is bringing the right mix of size, speed, talent, toughness, and meanness to the party, even in the absence of behemoth enforcer Derek Boogard, who is still out with a shoulder problem.  The Rangers are seeking to win their second straight in Pittsburgh and to get a win over a Penguin team that last night had a 12 game win streak snapped by the Flyers.


Crack (,

Sean Avery (above) on top of Edmonton cry baby Ladislav Smid.

After Sunday afternoon’s Ranger’s blowout victory, defeated Edmonton defenseman Theo Peckham fumed that Sean Avery’s 3rd period actions precipitated a 5 on 5 brawl.  Peckham contended that Smid challenged the Ranger agitator to go, and that Avery’s reply was to the tune of ‘not now, next shift.’  Then Avery pounced on Smid and beat his face in.

Did Smid go down like that?  So what if he did?  Avery, when told of Peckham’s accusation, said “That’s what he said?”, unable to suppress the laughter.  Was he laughing at the assertion, or did the matter simply amuse him, however Smid went down?  Ace New York Post Rangers’ beat writer and hockey columnist Larry Brooks suggested on Monday that such an action was typical Avery and well within his nature.

As if that’s a bad thing?  Avery, the player who stirs the drink for the Rangers, went what seems like a whole season between stirring drinks, playing completely listless hockey for the Rangers last year, who failed to qualify for the playoffs, in what may have been #16’s worst season.  And after a November 4th tilt in Phily in which the Flyers once again bullied the Rangers up and down the ice, led by public enemy number one, Daniel Carcillo, this Rangers fan became disgusted, like many others, by the soft tone of the team.  Carcillo famously got Rangers’ star forward Marian Gaborik into a fight last year.  Sometimes a fight is unavoidable, but the Rangers response at having their best player targeted was nil.  Inexcusable.  And when Carcillo continued his antics in Phily 2 weeks ago, the Rangers did respond, but it was too little, too late.  The Rangers were already squarely off their game, and even admirable tough guys like Rangers’ heavyweight Derek Boogard and NHL middleweight champion Brandon Prust, who won fights after Carcillo’s dirty hit on Ruslan Fedotenko, were merely reacting.  They were not taking the initiative.

Despite having lost a tough game tonight at the Garden to the Bruins 3-2, the Rangers are playing much better hockey, and it has started to seem that the Rangers are more ready to respond to physical challenges.  For one, Sean Avery is noticeable once again, and if he has to sucker punch someone to be that, then let’s get to sucker punching.  The Rangers, a team stocked wth young players, have begun to give their tougher stock more ice time, like Brandon Prust, who arrived here from Calgary as a four minute man, but now plays a regular shift, even killing penalties.  So what if he got caught up ice on the tying goal with 2+ minutes to go in Pittsburgh?  It’s going to happen.  But you have to have confidence in guys.  And Tortorella does.  To the coach’s credit, because it hasn’t always seemed that way, which is why we’ve been critical of him.  And when you play Brandon Prust for 15 minutes instead of 4, that’s 11 more minutes on the ice for a guy who had approximately 40 fights last year, increasing the odds that he will keep opposing scum honest, in a way that the Sean Averys and Daniel Carcillos of the world can not be contained.

The Rangers went down 2-1 Monday night in a blink, after protecting a 1-0 lead for almost the entire 2nd half of the game.  Perhaps an even dirtier player than Carcillo, Cindy Crosby, seemed to commit at least 2 obvious stick infractions that were not called.  Is there ever a call that doesn’t go Crosby’s way?  The kid has a Stanley Cup ring on account of a blown call, after all.  But young Ranger power forward Brandon Dubinsky, now with 11 goals, seems to genuinely have a thing for Crosby, and has made it a point to pursue the Pittsburgh star, stalking him for the precious opportunity to rearrange #87’s face.  And Dubinsky beatifully set up both the tying and winning goal, in a most improbable win in the Rangers first game in Pittsburgh’s new arena. 

For the first time in a couple of years, the Rangers seem to have a squad that may be more than timid, in terms of going on the ice and taking respect, though Theo Peckham surely doesn’t seem to think so.  The real test of mettle for the Rangers will be the next time they face the Flyers.  As for Peckham, it’s a flipping hockey game, Theo.  When you come to the Garden these days, don’t be surprised if you get punched in the face, regardless of any alleged gentleman’s agreements.


Crack (,