New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard found dead tonight

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The New York Rangers announced that enforcer Derek Boogaard passed away, with Michael Russo reporting that family members found him dead in his apartment today. No other details have emerged at this time.

It’s difficult not to think about the death of fellow enforcer Bob Probert in this situation, especially since Boogaard – known around the NHL as “The Boogeyman” – was the most feared fighter in the post-lockout NHL. He most recently skated for the Rangers this season, but spent most of his career with the Minnesota Wild organization. He appeared in 277 NHL games from 2005-2010.

It’s also difficult not to wonder if Boogaard’s most recent injury issues had something to do with his untimely death. His 2010-11 season was cut short because of concussion issues suffered while doing what he did best: fighting during hockey games. Update: the latest reports indicate that his autopsy results might not be released for about two weeks, so it could be a while before the cause of his death is known.

This sad situation might bring up some questions about fighting in the sport along with maintaining the seriousness of the league’s concussion issues, but at this time we must think of Boogaard’s family and friends. They are dealing with a shocking loss, especially considering the fact that Boogaard was so young.

Russo gathered a quick quote from Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, one of Boogaard’s former teammates:

Niklas Backstrom on Derek Boogaard: “Unreal guy. Just a really big teddy bear. Outside the rink, he didn’t want bad for anyone.”

Here is a bit more about Boogaard, via the Rangers’ press release.

“Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual,” said New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather.  “He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him.  We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”

(snip)

Throughout his career, Boogaard sought to make a difference in the communities he played in, taking part in numerous charitable endeavors.  Boogaard was a supporter of the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation whose mission is to ensure that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the great sport of hockey.

While with the Rangers, he created “Boogaard’s Booguardians,” hosting military members and their families at all New York Ranger home games.  In addition, he made multiple appearances with partner organizations of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the New York Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, MSG Media, MSG Entertainment and Fuse “to make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles”.

Update: here’s a statement from NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr.

“The NHLPA is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Derek Boogaard. Derek was a well-liked and respected member of the NHLPA, and his passing is a great loss to the entire hockey community.  Our sincere condolences to Derek’s many friends and family during this difficult time.”

Finally, as a tribute to Boogaard, here’s a video clip of the amazing goal he scored on November 9, 2010.