GLENDALE – Less than a week has passed since NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard passed away suddenly and I still am shocked by the news.
Boogaard spent the first five years of his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild before signing a free-agent deal with the New York Rangers last summer. He was 28 years old when he died.
I never met Boogaard but I enjoyed watching him play the game. At 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, he was a unique presence on the ice, and I always watched him closely whenever the Coyotes battled the Wild just to see the impact he would have on how the game was played.
Coyotes center Eric Belanger played with Boogaard when both were members of the Wild not too long ago. In fact, Belanger sat next to Boogaard in the Wild dressing room during his final season in Minnesota (2009-10).
Belanger learned of Boogaard’s death while watching television in his Phoenix home last Friday.
“I was just sitting there on the couch and it popped up on the news and my heart just started beating fast,” Belanger said. “It’s sad and I feel bad because he was so young and still had all those years in front of him. My thoughts are with his family.”
Boogaard’s nickname was “The Boogy Man.” According to hockeyfights.com, he took part in 184 fights in his hockey career.
“He was so tough on the ice but a big teddy bear off the ice, and he was always helping other people,” Belanger said. “That’s what I remember most.”
Belanger also said Boogaard was a solid teammate.
“He was very quiet but a great guy and a great teammate to play with. I remember my first year with Minnesota he told me ‘Do whatever you want on the ice – nobody’s going to touch you here.’ That’s the kind of guy ‘Boogy’ was. He protected the key players on the team over the years and you respect that because it’s a tough job to do and he was doing that every night. He made us all feel so comfortable on the ice because you knew he had your back.”
* In case you missed it, Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and his Swedish teammates earned a silver medal at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia earlier this week.
In seven games at the tournament, Ekman-Larsson notched a goal and three assists and had a plus-5 rating. He averaged 17:19 of ice time per game and took 24 shots on goal for Sweden, which finished the tournament in second place out of 16 teams.
Ekman-Larsson missed two games in the middle of the tournament because of a wrist injury but he played in Sweden’s semifinal win over Czech Republic and the gold-medal game loss to Finland.
Meanwhile, Coyotes forwards Mikkel Boedker and Andy Miele also participated.
In six games, Boedker notched three goals and one assist and had a minus-4 rating. He averaged 20:06 of ice time per game and took 16 shots on goal for Denmark, which finished the tournament in 11th place out of 16 teams.
By the way, Boedker will be answering questions from fans via a live web chat this Friday at noon (Arizona time) at phoenixcoyotes.com.
In two games, Miele notched two assists and had a zero plus/minus rating. He averaged 12:09 of ice time per game and took zero shots on goal for the United States, which finished the tournament in eighth place out of 16 teams.
Miele had never played for Team USA at any level until this tournament. Click here to read more about his experience.
FYI, things are pretty quiet on the free agent front this week as Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney has been meeting extensively with the team’s scouts in preparation for the upcoming NHL Combine in Toronto and next month’s NHL Entry Draft in Saint Paul, Minn. Stay tuned…