Rangers players reacted with shock and profound sadness upon hearing the news their teammate Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment on Friday.
“It was devastating news,” said forward Marian Gaborik, who played with Boogaard in Minnesota for four years before Boogaard signed with the Rangers in July, 2010. “I played with Boogey for a long time in Minny and then in New York. He was a great guy. We got along together great. We helped each other out on the ice and off the ice. We were very close. I tried to help him along in New York, and we had a very good relationship. It’s just very sad.”
“On behalf of all Derek’s teammates, I would like to say that he was a great friend and a great teammate and that we are all going miss him dearly,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said in a statement. “This is a tragic loss for the hockey community. All of our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said it may be weeks before a cause of death can be given, due to toxicology tests they performed on the 28-year-old Boogaard.
“I am still in shock. It keeps hitting me off and on all day as I’m driving home,” said Brandon Prust, who roomed with Boogaard on road trips this season. “Though he was a fighter on the ice, he was definitely a gentle giant off the ice. He was just a real good guy, a team guy all the way. I’ve been looking at some of the silly pictures I have from when we were roommates and it just hits me what a good guy he was. I still can’t believe I am referring to him in the past tense.”
The 6-foot-8, 257-pound forward founded “Boogaard’s Booguardians,” a seating section at Madison Square Garden that he reserved for military members and their families at all Rangers home games.
“As big of a man as Derek was, his heart was even bigger,” said Sean Avery. “I hope that his family, friends and most importantly, those who didn’t know him, understand what a great teammate he was and how much he meant to us all.”
“I had some great talks and great laughs with him in our car rides into the city,” Brian Boyle added. “I will remember him fondly, and I think we all will. There are so many great things Boogey brought to our team and to our lives. For however long you knew him, it was a blessing because on the ice he was an amazing teammate, and off the ice he was an even better friend.”
The Minnesota Star-Tribune reported on Saturday that Boogaard’s family signed papers that will allow his brain to be donated to Boston University researchers studying brain disease in athletes. The study is specifically looking at the effects of concussions on athletes’ brains.
“He was a great person. He really was,” Boyle said. “He was such a caring guy, an unselfish guy. He put himself in front of bullets for the guys.”
“We spoke before the World Championships (which started two weeks ago). We were in touch a lot,” Gaborik said of the last time he talked to his friend.
“He was focusing on coming back, training every day. He was really looking forward to coming back in great shape and proving that he’s the best at what he does. He was really looking forward to that.”