By Tom Urtz Jr.
With the tragic and untimely passing of Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard I felt I needed to vent out my emotions.
I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t cry after hearing the news. In my relatively young career of blogging about the New York Rangers, I tried to look up and down the roster to find something unique about each player.
Little by little, I realized that players were more than goal scorers, shot blockers and puck stoppers—they were human. They got sick, they took time off to play with their kids and they were human.
These players who we admired, adored, and cheered for appeared to be larger than life itself.
Derek Boogaard was one of these larger than life individuals.
For those who thought Boogey was just an enforcer or a giant slab of mean who threw his body around, you are sadly mistaken.
Derek was a brother, a son, a teammate, and friend to many.
Underneath is larger than life exterior, Derek had a soft sensitive side for children.
The Boogey man established Boogaard’s Booguardians and invited military families to Rangers games during his one season in New York.
He was also very involved with Defending The Blue Line, a Minneapolis charity which made hockey accessible to children who have a parent in the military.
This is all good and well but some judged Derek simply for his hockey skills during his time in New York. Yes, I understand that this is a business but still moments like this make you wan’t to think before you act.
In this age of social media, it is very easy for the fan to complain. Twitter is one of these outlets.
This is an abridged exchange I viewed one night during the season.
“You have got to be kidding me. That useless piece of crap is being paid how much over how many years? We could have passed on this bum and signed X player. Damn is my G.M. stupid.”
That piece of crap bum you just bashed could be a father of two and may have a loving wife. He tries his hardest game in and game out to perform on the biggest stage in his profession.
You don’t know all the late night bus trips he took while struggling to support his family during his Canadian Juniors days. He goes out there and tries to do something to make the paying customer remember that experience.
The first professional hockey game I attended was December 3, 1999. It was at Madison Square Garden and the Rangers played against the Montreal Canadiens. Mike Richter was in net and I brutally butchered the names of the European players throughout the night. I even got a puck tossed to me by one of the rookie players that didn’t get much ice time that night.
I had a great first live hockey experience because of that player. I didn’t care if he was a first line sniper or a fourth line grinder, he made a personal connection with me and my love of hockey increased tremendously.
In light of Derek’s death, we the fans need to reflect on this. This was a 28-year-old man. He was in the prime of life and has left a family behind. He will be deeply missed because he was an extraordinary person. He was a charitable man who gave back to his community and his country.
It is time to realize that hockey is more than a game. It is full of players who work their hardest and that hate to make mistakes. We should never severely undermine their efforts or verbally bash them in an extremely negative light.
I know frustration may impact our judgement but we should show restraint when possible.
We may criticize them to the end of time, but at the end of the day if we laced up a pair of skates, chances are we would’t be able to do a better job ourselves.
I am guilty myself and would like to issue a public apology. As the season has wound down, I have salivated at the prospective free agents the Rangers could possibly sign.
In this fantasizing and anticipation I have nonchalantly said, oh we can buyout player X and send player Y to the minors.
I know it is a part of the game, but in reality I was outwardly hoping for a player to lose their job.
As fans we all do these things but it sometimes takes a tragedy like Boogaard’s to make us realize what is really important. We will all go to bed tonight, wake up in the morning and will go on with the rest of our days.
People like Derek Boogaard are in a better place and we should do everything in our power to honor him and the game he religiously loved and dedicated himself too.
The next time you want to rant in an angry blog, post on Facebook or tweet ill words against a player, realize that they are no different than you and I and that they deal with the problems that the rest of the world does.
With that said, Rest in Peace Derek Boogaard and God Bless you and your family.
R.I.P Derek Boogaard 1982-2011.
Just a reminder that I will be accepting guest blog entries until July 31st. Please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will receive a home blue Derek Stepan jersey.