The Hitting Zone

The NHL just makes it up as they go along, why can't we?

Mixed Emotions on Boogaard

Late last Saturday I was shaken, like most hockey fans, by the announcement that Derek Boogaard of the Rangers had been found dead in his Minneapolis apartment at the young age of 28.  Having played a little and been involved in quite a few head injuries I stopped and thought for a minute.  Man 28 is young.  I’m about to be 34.  Is there some dark monster in my head looking to snatch me too?  Boogaard’s season had been cut short by concussion.

Today the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the cause of Boogaard’s death to be an accidental lethal mix of alcohol and the prescription pain killer oxycodone.  This announcement while somewhat expected after some of the rumor dropping of the previous week still has torn me in several directions.

My first one is limited relief.  Misuse of alcohol and pain killers is not something I have ever been involved in.  Second however is a drop in my sympathy and an elevation in my anger.  That might sound crappy but this isn’t the tragedy to me that it was on Saturday. It’s more of a failing.  A week ago it was the sudden and shocking departure of a fan favorite from the hockey world.  That is tragic.  Now the tragedy is that Boogaard had a problem as alluded to in the statement from his family.  That problem was not corrected in time and the hockey world lost someone it loved.

I do take issue with those in the press who have said his problem “doesn’t matter“.  Jesse Spector of The New York Daily News said as much in a tweet on the subject.  It really does matter.  There is a big difference in my mind between a concussion causing a problem in a brain that kills someone and the misuse of drugs and alcohol.  I’m not taking anything away from Derek Boogaard’s playing career but there is an opportunity for the NHL and individual teams to learn from Boogaard’s death and implement system to help identify and counsel players who may be on the same path.

Boogaaard, like many other NHL tough guys, was a  real giver off the ice.  I think the longest lasting impact of his death could be to raise awareness and implement precautions to deal with a shadowy problem within all sports leagues.  If not his death will remain a tragic one where we have not learned anything.

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Written by ozman51

May 20, 2011 at 9:00 PM

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