Family, friends and fans say goodbye to Derek Boogaard at Xcel Center

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When Minnesota Wild fans Shelby Leske and Katie Haag created a Facebook group to organize an informal memorial service in memory of Derek Boogaard for Sunday night, it’s unlikely that they expected a turnout like the one that took place at the Xcel Energy Center. The event drew 350 Wild fans along with many of Boogaard’s closest family members and teammates, according to Michael Russo.

While the event was informal, the Wild organization embraced the opportunity to celebrate the life of the popular enforcer. Bryan Reynolds of the SBNation Wild blog Hockey Wilderness points out that popular former Wild player Wes Walz and current GM Chuck Fletcher made heartfelt speeches during the event, along with comments from Boogaard’s family members.

As you can see from one of the photos provided below, the memorial display included microphones for the various speakers, a big No. 24 Boogaard jersey, a large picture of the enforcer and a table full of flowers, some candles and other mementos left behind by fans.

Russo captured the emotional scene in this story, with reactions from his family, including his parents Len and Joanne Boogaard.

Len and Joanne Boogaard were joined by Derek’s brothers, Ryan and Aaron, sister, Krysten, half-brother, Curtis, a slew of other family and friends, former Wild teammates Brent Burns, Andrew Brunette, Niklas Backstrom, Nick Schultz, Stephane Veilleux, Wes Walz and the entire Wild training staff.

“I just look at the fans and can’t believe it,” Len Boogaard said.

The memorial was funny at times, especially when Walz spoke about how nobody wanted to skate against the 6-8 behemoth in early-year scrimmages. At times, it was heart-warming, especially when Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher talked about his memories of Boogaard and Burns wrestling on the ice and how compassionate Boogaard was with children and charities.

And at times it was downright tear-inducing, especially when his family courageously spoke.

Reynolds did a great job of describing the speech by Walz, which occasionally provided some lighter moments on a sad night for family, friends and fans.

Wes Walz was next, and called Boogaard “a true gentleman.” Walz went on, saying Boogaard was “soft spoken, kind hearted, and a gentle giant.” He offered a welcome moment of levity, telling of Boogaard’s first training camp with the Wild. “He was 21 years old, and there’s this guy skating around who is 6-8, 270 lbs, and a lot of us did not want to be on the ice with him. Guys were changing quicker, taking 15 second shifts and getting off the ice.”

Walz explained that Boogaard worked hard on his game, both in Houston, and during the summer, that he constantly worked on his skating, balance, and conditioning, so if “fights went 45 seconds or a minute, he would always have the upper hand,” stating that Boogaard knew his role, and what kept him in the league.

Talking about Boogaard’s fighting abilities, Walz said that there was a “stretch five or six years ago, [the team] had seen nothing like it, we saw him knock about eight or nine guys out in a row. Usually you see one or two a year, but guys were dropping left and right.” He added, “We loved having him on our bench. We were a small, quick team. We needed Derek in that lineup. I can tell you a lot guys on our bench grew an inch or two and were a lot braver when Derek was on the bench, which made our team better.”

It must have been a heart-wrenching scene, but it’s also an impressive showing of support for a player who meant a lot to a franchise and fan base. Again, everyone involved deserves a tremendous amount of admiration for handling a very sad situation with such class.

Make sure to read Russo and Reynolds’ full stories for more on that memorial service.

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Here are some photos from the event. First, here are a couple from Reynolds:

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Here are some additional photos from Jim Mone of The Associated Press (also responsible for this post’s main image):

(Aaron and Krysten Boogaard)

(Boogaard family gathers)

(Wild fans mourn Boogaard.)

For fourth time in five years Sergei Mozyakin is the KHL’s MVP

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The KHL handed out its awards for the 2016-17 season on Wednesday and it was Magnitogorsk Metallurg forward Sergei Mozyakin taking home the Golden Stick Trophy as the league MVP.

Given the season he had, and the career he has had in the KHL, this should not really be much of a surprise.

Mozyakin turned in one of the greatest performances in the history of the league this season by scoring 48 goals and recording 85 total points (both league records) in only 60 games.

Since the KHL formed in 2008-09 only three different players have won the Golden Stick award. Danis Zaripov won it during the inaugural season, while Alexander Radulov won it four times (three years in a row between 2009-10 and 2011-12, then again in 2014-15).

Mozyakin won it in 2012-13 and 2014-15, then in each of the past two seasons.

The 36-year-old forward was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the ninth-round (No. 262 overall) of the 2002 draft by never played a game in the NHL. He has spent his entire professional career playing in Russia where he has consistently been one of the best, most productive players in the league.

Among the KHL’s other award winners, Vasily Koshechkin was named the league’s top goalie, Oleg Znarok was the coach of the year, while Vladimir Tkachyov is the rookie of the year.

Mike Fisher could return for Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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One of the more impressive things about the Nashville Predators’ ability to eliminate the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals was the way they won the last two games of the series without the services of their top two centers, Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher.

They will still be without Johansen in the Stanley Cup Final as his postseason has come to an end, but they could get Fisher back when the series begins on Monday night.

General manager David Poile said on Wednesday that he is hopeful Fisher can participate in practice on Thursday and that there is “a real good chance” he will be ready to play in Game 1 of the series. The Predators will play the winner of Thursday’s Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. The Predators will open the series on the road no matter who they play.

Fisher suffered an apparent head injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final but was able to be on the ice to take part in the trophy celebration following Game 6.

The Predators’ captain has yet to record a point in 14 games this postseason, but did score 18 goals and add 24 assists in 72 games during the regular season.

In other injury news, Craig Smith, who also missed Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, has seen his health improve and could also be getting closer to a return. Smith has only played in four games for the Predators this postseason and has not played since Game 6 in the second-round against the St. Louis Blues.

Craig Cunningham joins Coyotes front office as pro scout

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The Arizona Coyotes announced on Wednesday afternoon that former player Craig Cunningham has joined the team’s front office as a pro scout.

Cunningham’s playing career came to an end earlier this season when he suffered a medical emergency and collapsed on the ice before a game in the American Hockey League. He had CPR and other medical techniques administered on the ice and on the way to the hospital to help save his life. He has made a remarkable recovery since then.

“We’re thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a statement released by the team. “Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We’re confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club.”

A fourth-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 2010, the 26-year-old Cunningham spent parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Bruins and Coyotes, scoring three goals to go with five assists in 63 career games. He did not play for the big club in Arizona this season. He scored four goals and recorded nine assists in 11 games with the Tucson Roadrunners this season before having his career come to a premature end.

Report: Stars make more changes in goal, hire ex-Detroit coach Bedard

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Suspect netminding has plagued Dallas for two straight years, and GM Jim Nill is switching things up accordingly.

On the heels of acquiring Ben Bishop and signing him to a long-term contract, Nill has reportedly hired veteran goalie coach Jim Bedard, per In Goal Magazine.

Bedard will replace longtime Dallas employee Mike Valley, who has been with the club since 2009 in a goalie coach/director of goaltending development role. In Goal reports that Valley told the club he wouldn’t be returning.

Bedard, 60, was with Detroit from the mid-90s to last summer, when he was relived of his duties. His unemployment didn’t last long. Within weeks of being dismissed, Bedard caught on as the goalie coach for OHL Windsor,

The connection to Dallas is quite obvious. Nill and Bedard worked together for years in Detroit, and won three Stanley Cups together.

Related: Bishop has ‘good relationship’ with Hitch, and that’s important