New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard was found dead Friday. He was 28.
Known as the Boogey Man because of his role as one of the game's most physical forwards, Boogaard was found by members of his family at his apartment in Minneapolis. Boogaard spent the first five years of his career with the Minnesota Wild before signing a free-agent deal with the Rangers last summer.
His first season with the Rangers was cut short due to a concussion and a shoulder injury. He played just 22 games, scoring 1 goal, adding an assis and earning 45 penalty minutes.
"Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual," Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time."
In 277 NHL games, Boogaard, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound winger, compiled 3 goals, 16 points and 589 PIM. He was very popular during his time with the Wild, winning over fans with an ever-present smile and an eagerness to help out his new community. He was also loved for his willingness to protect teammates on the ice. He's second on the team's all-time list for penalty minutes with 544.
The Wild released a statement Friday night: "The Minnesota Wild organization sends our deepest sympathies to the family of Derek Boogaard. Derek was a fan favorite during his five seasons with the Wild and will be greatly missed here in Minnesota and throughout the NHL."
As the news of Boogaard's death spread Friday night, it hit the hockey community especially hard.
"The news that we have lost someone so young and so strong leaves everyone in the National Hockey League stunned and saddened, Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement released Saturday morning. "The NHL family sends its deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Derek Boogaard, to those who played and worked with him and to everyone who enjoyed watching him compete."
It was his teammates and his foes, though, who knew Boogaard best. They saw past the intimidating stare and the reputation as the toughest man in hockey.
"Unreal guy - just a really big teddy bear," Wild goalie and former teammate Niklas Backstrom told the Minneapolis-Star Tribune. "Outside the rink, he didn't want bad for anyone."
Boston defenseman Shane Hnidy played with Boogard in Minnesota last season and was clearly upset as he discussed his former teammate and friend after Saturday's morning skate in preparation for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.
"It's really tough,” Hnidy said. "It hit me pretty hard last night when I heard. I send everything out to his family. It's a tough time for everyone.
"Everyone just saw the big tough exterior, but he was a great guy that really gave back. Especially in Minnesota, he was probably the biggest, most popular player there. He always gave back.”
Boogaard was active in a number of charities during his NHL career. Last season he started "Boogaard's Booguardians," where he hosted military members and their families at all Rangers home games. He also was active with the Garden of Dreams Foundation as well as the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit foundation that ensures children of military members are given the chance to play hockey.
According to the Star Tribune, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that an autopsy would be conducted Saturday.