Minnesota Wild: A Look Back at The Real Boogeyman


Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the death of Derek Boogaard.  It can be said that the former Minnesota Wild enforcer is and always will be one of the most beloved players in franchise history.

If you look around the Excel Energy Center during any Minnesota Wild game, you’ll see a sea of personalized jerseys.  You’ll see lots of current players like Parise, Suter, and Koivu just to name a few.  Still if you look closely there’s one name from the past that seems to be scattered throughout the crowd more than any other…Boogaard.

Known as the Boogeyman, Derek Boogard was one of the most feared NHL enforcers of his time.  In a time where the art of the fighting seemed to be on the decline, Boogaard was still fighting and making it look like an art form.  The fans loved him for his aggressive tenacity and toughness, and his teammates loved him because he was policed the ice and kept them safe from the opposing team’s thugs.

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of his unfortunate and sudden death.  Still it can be said despite his passing Boogaard’s spirit is alive and well in State of Hockey.  Boogaard is still so revered by the organization that before this last season Mathew Dumba asked Boogaard’s parents’ permission to don his number 24.  It an interesting bond with the fans and players that might not ever be broken or equaled by any player to wear the Wild uniform.

What made Boogaard such an intimidating force was his god given physical stature that saw him tower over opponents with his 6 foot 7-inch frame.  With 270 pounds on that frame he had a crippling amount of force behind every punch he threw.  If that wasn’t enough Boogaard was a master of the fighting craft as he was a student of boxing and the hockey fight.  So good was his approach to the art of fighting, others would seek his advice forcing him to open a fighting school in his native Saskatchewan during the offseason.

Perhaps most of all the Boogeyman was feared by almost every player in the NHL, to include the all the other enforcers.  Boogaard didn’t just beat players in a fight, he’d could inflict serious injury.  A great example of that is when Boogaard broke the cheekbone of Todd Fedoruk that required a repair of in the form of a metal plate.  Georges Laraque a very intimidating player in his own right was heard saying that part of the reason he wanted to retire when he did was that he didn’t want to be a victim of the punishment Boogaard was dealing out.

His cause of death ultimately was what made him great, his fighting.  While recovering from a concussion he suffered in a fight with Matt Carkner of Ottawa while he was a member of the New York Rangers, Boogaard had an overdose reaction of alcohol mixed his pain killers.  The Minneapolis firefighters who found him pronounced him dead at the scene just ten days short of his 29th birthday.

It was a tragic death that brought to light the effects of concussions in the NHL as it was found that Boogaard was suffering from CTE. His death led some former enforcers and sportswriters to call out the NHL on if they were doing enough to deal with the effects of the many concussions enforcers suffered and the stress of their role. Georges Laraque, put it best when he explained the tragedy of enforcers like Boogaard when he explained that he never liked being an enforcer despite the long career and praise it brought him.

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So as we take a minute to look back at the life of Derek Boogaard, it should be said that he was a true hockey player and the last of a dying breed.  Very few legacy players have had a hold of the collective Wild imagination quite like the Boogeyman.  The fans will never forget him and his former opponents in pugilistic combat will never forget him as well.  They all probably have a lasting reminder that they met and tangled with the real Boogeyman.