The cause of Derek Boogaard’s death was never going to be easy to accept, but it was especially sad to hear that it was from an accidental mixture of alcohol and oxycodone toxicity.
That’s what the Hannepin (Minn.) County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed Friday afternoon on the eve of family members laying to rest the New York Rangers left wing/enforcer who was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment a week earlier by his brothers, Ryan and Aaron.
Unfortunately, Boogaard’s death at the far too young age of 28 was related to taking medication for pain, oxycodone, which has warnings not to mix with alcohol that could cause severe injury or death. It is also considered a very addictive drug, a narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine.
But it’s not surprising after Rangers longtime beat writer Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported last Saturday that Boogaard spent his final days in the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Program. The same day, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that when Boogaard missed most of the Minnesota Wild’s training camp in 2009 and the first two weeks of the season under the guise of a concussion, he also entered Stage 1 of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.
Since Boogaard’s death, his family decided to donate his brain to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Encephalopathy to help study the effect of hits to the head in sports. He missed the final 52 games of the regular season and the playoffs because of a concussion sustained in a fight with Ottawa Senators defenseman Matt Carkner on Dec. 9. It was his seventh fight in only 22 games with the Rangers, who signed him to a four-year, $6.5 million contract on July 1, 2010 after 255 games in five seasons with the Wild, who selected him in the seventh round in 2001.
Earlier this year, Boston University revealed Bob Probert, another former left wing and enforcer, suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Probert died of a heart attack last July at 45. Reggie Fleming, an enforcer in the 1960s who played before helmets became mandatory, also had CTE.
Wild fans held a memorial service for the extremely popular Boogaard last Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis. Family, friends and former teammates remembered the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Boogaard as a tough guy on the rink but a gentle giant off it.
Boogaard is survived by his two brothers, sister Krysten, half brother Curtis and parents, Len and Joanne. Several NHL players, including many with the Wild, as well as team owner Craig Leipold, general manager Chuck Fletcher and those in the Wild training staff are expected to attend his funeral Saturday. It will be at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Depot in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, where Boogaard’s father, a brother who’s a Mountie and two uncles had trained. Boogaard had told agent Ron Salcer about his admiration for the National Guard.
In lieu of flowers, Boogaard’s family requests donations be made to Defending The Blue Line, a non-profit charitable group whose mission is to ensure children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in hockey. Throughout his career, Boogaard tried to make a difference in the communities he played, taking part in numerous charitable endeavors in Minnesota and New York.
While with the Rangers, he created “Boogaard’s Booguardians,” hosting military members and their families at home games. He also made numerous appearances with partner organizations of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the Rangers, Knicks, Liberty, MSG Media, MSG Entertainment and Fuse “to make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles.”
President/general manager Glen Sather and assistant GM/assistant coach/Whale GM Jim Schoenfeld will held a contingent of about 35 officials, players, trainers and support staff from the Rangers attending the funeral.
The Boogaard family would like to see their son’s legacy live on by supporting military kids and the game he loved. Donations can be made to: Defending The Blue Line, c/o Boogaard Booguardians Memorial Fund, 1206 N. Frontage Road, Suite B, Hastings, Mn. 55033. Donations can also be made at www.DefendingTheBlueLine.org.
WHALE ‘SKATE TO 3,000’ IN FULL FLIGHT
Summer is the most important time of the year for a hockey team as far as sales, and Connecticut Whale officials have started their “Skate to 3,000” campaign to have 3,000 season tickets for 2011-12.
There were only 470 season ticket holders when Whalers Sports and Entertainment took over control of the business operations only 21/2 weeks before the start of last season. That reached 600 by the time the first puck was dropped Oct. 8, but WSE officials would now like to more than quadruple that number and have already surpassed that number since the Whale was eliminated from the playoffs.
Plus there’s an added bonus to joining or rejoining early.
“The people who get on board now are going to be the first in line when and if we move toward the NHL,” WSE chairman and CEO Howard Baldwin said. “Anyone who pays attention to what’s going on in hockey now can see there are going to be movement of franchises. And I can promise you that there is going to be movement in the next few years in the NFL. But this is the NHL, and we’re back on the radar … pardon the pun as far as Sonar (the Hartford Wolf Pack mascot).”
One of the major factors in trying to reach that season-ticket goal is the introduction of the Xfinity at Comcast Slapshot Cage that will tour the region with mascots Sonar and Pucky (Whale). The movable, inflatable cage will travel to various events throughout the summer and also make stops at the Comcast Theatre at 61 Savitt Way in Hartford. It also will visit corporate partners at lunch time when WSE officials will be pushing corporate sales, allowing interested parties to have the speed of their shots measured by a radar gun.
“The key is that it’s very visible and very colorful and represents us in the community,” WSE senior vice president of sales and business development Bob Ohrablo said. “We’ll be all over Central Connecticut all summer at all kinds of different events. If someone is having a block party or something else, they should let us know and we’ll show up, along with information on our upcoming season, season tickets, things like that.”
WSE also will be holding another Summer Fest in mid-August at the XL Center that will include former Whalers and current Whale players. The date and other details of the Summer Fest will be announced in the near future.
“It will be a one-day celebration of hockey and a good time for families to come out to a kind of carnival atmosphere,” Ohrablo said. “It also will be a great time for people to get their season tickets. We’ll have a booth set up with the seats that are available, so it’ll be a nice chance to folks to come out about a month before training camp starts.”
Ohrablo said he and his staff have already started talking to sponsors and hope to have “a whole new lineup” for next season.
“We offer sponsors a lot,” he said. “We offer them the opportunity to be involved in everything we have and see the whole thing through (to the NHL). We also want to make sure that their business benefits from the sponsorship, so we customize most of our packages to their needs.”
A large part of that is the creation of the Whale Business Club, a networking group to assure the sponsors and season ticket holders talk to each other.
“We want to make sure that while they’re supporting us and our cause and our mission that they’re also generating additional incremental business for themselves,” Ohrablo said. “The easiest way to do that is for people with like interests, those that are rallying behind us, should be doing business with each other. So we’re going to do a series of events where we get everyone together with introductions and have a separate page on our website (www.ctwhale.com). Again, people supporting us need to support each other and generate business for each other.”
Anyone interested in booking the Xfinity of Comcast Slapshot Cage or becoming a season ticket holder or corporate sponsor should contact WSE director of client services Amy Rimmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Whale will also have a booth at the Travelers Championship June 20-26 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell where fans can select seats at the XL Center and purchase season tickets.
BALDWIN’S WORDS RING TRUE
Baldwin’s contention about NHL franchise movements began to reach fruition Thursday when the Toronto Globe and Mail reported True North Sports and Entertainment had reached an agreement to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and move them to Winnipeg, where the AHL’s Manitoba Moose currently reside. Winnipeg was also the home of the Jets, one of four World Hockey Association teams to join the NHL in 1979.
Though NHL officials immediately denied the Globe and Mail report, it couldn’t dampen the euphoria of most Winnipeg hockey fans, who saw the Jets leave 15 years ago and become the Phoenix Coyotes. About 50 fans gathered in downtown Winnipeg Thursday night to celebrate the report of respected columnist Stephen Brunt that a press conference would be held Tuesday in Winnipeg with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance.
That might be rushing matters a bit because NHL officials usually don’t like to make a major announcement while the Stanley Cup playoffs are going on. But the move seems logical considering the Thrashers have had among the lowest attendance in the NHL for years and lost more than $20 million this season.
Plus, The Globe and Mail is owned by the Thomson family, and David Thomson, one of the richest men in the world, is a partner in True North Sports and Entertainment. True North and Atlanta Spirit reportedly are in negotiations about a potential sale, and Brunt said the Thrashers were True North’s intended target for purchase all along. In fact, Brunt said the NHL board of governors approved the sale several months ago and was just waiting for the purchase agreement to be ironed out between True North and Atlanta Spirit. The NHL also denied that idea.
The Globe and Mail report came nine days after the Coyotes got a one-year reprieve in Phoenix when the Glendale (Ariz.) City Council voted 5-2 to give the NHL $25 million for operating costs of Jobing.com Arena for next season. It was the second $25 million that Glendale forked over to the NHL, and it was repeated after the Coyotes lost $37 million last season despite increased attendance and season ticket sales.
Now the NHL, which bought the team out of bankruptcy in September 2009, must figure out a way to push ahead with the stalled purchase of the team by Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer or find a new buyer.
There have been indications that Glendale could be reaching out to other potential buyers, although no one would comment for the record on the possibility. Two council members mentioned they knew information they could not divulge publicly on the Coyotes issue. Looking elsewhere could cause Hulsizer to pull back from the situation while matters unfold.
The May 10 vote came nearly two years to the day after then-owner Jerry Moyes took the Coyotes into bankruptcy, to the surprise of the NHL, in a bid to sell to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would have moved the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. The NHL vehemently opposed that plan, and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge refused to allow the sale to go through.
Eventually, the NHL was the only bidder left, and it bought the team with the objective of finding a buyer to keep the team in Arizona. Failing that, the franchise would be moved elsewhere, possibly back to Winnipeg, where it was located before moving to the desert in 1996. But that now appears to be the new home of the former Thrashers.
And the Glendale vote occurred a day before the financially strapped New York Islanders and their top affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers might finally have got some much needed/desired help. The Islanders’ lease with the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., doesn’t end until 2015, but concern about the NHL franchise has been going on for years.
But Islanders and Nassau County officials announced a $400 million development and job creation plan on Long Island that included building a world-class sports-entertainment destination center adjacent the antiquated Coliseum with a new sports arena and minor league baseball park at the nearby Mitchel Field Athletic Complex. Nassau County executive Edward P. Mangano also announced the construction of an Indian gaming casino at Belmont Park, site of the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
A referendum will be held Aug. 1, when voters also will decide the fate of the Islanders, Long Island’s only professional sports team, who face the possibility of having to leave Nassau Coliseum in 2015 when their least expires should a new sports arena not be built. More than 3,300 construction jobs would be created, which caused union workers attending to stand and chant, “Build it now!”
If the measure is approved, construction is estimated to begin in 2012 so the new sports arena could open no later than 2015. Revenues generated by the new facility would help pay off the $400 million total that is to be divided with $350 million going towards the arena and $50 towards the minor league stadium. The new arena would hold 17,500 for hockey, which is 1,250 more than the Coliseum’s current capacity.
PATERSON AND STAFF TO REMAIN WITH PHANTOMS
Coach Joe Paterson and assistant Riley Cote, who led the Adirondack Phantoms to a stunning second-half revival, will return next season to lead the Philadelphia Flyers’ top affiliate.
Paterson told PhillySportsDaily.com that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, former coach and GM of the Whalers, made the offer last month in Philadelphia between games of the Flyers-Buffalo Sabres first-round playoff series.
“We kind of agreed later that day, but I haven’t signed a contract or anything,” Paterson said. “(But) I think it’s just more of a paper thing. When teams agree, more so a handshake, I think things are pretty good.”
Holmgren said, “We’ve agreed [to a deal]. He’s coming back.”
Paterson had a 25-16-2-6 record after taking over on Dec. 20 from interim coach John Paddock, the AHL Hall of Famer and former Wolf Pack coach who he assisted for a month. The Phantoms started 2-11 under Greg Gilbert, who was fired Nov. 8, and won only four of their first 29 games.
In April, Paddock, the Flyers assistant GM, said he was pleased with the job done by Paterson.
“He had to put a head coaching stamp or mentality on the team and he did, obviously, or the team wouldn’t have been as successful,” Paddock said. “I think he’s a good one-on-one teacher. I think he has tremendous passion about everything he does, probably in life. But he has tremendous passion about the game, about hockey, about winning.”
Paterson said he was excited to continue the work he began last season.
“Not everybody from this team will make the Flyers, so there will be a nucleus of guys coming back,” Paterson said. “We kind of have a structure and a good understanding and a work ethic with some of the players, our coaching staff does. So we’ll be able to start right off that.”
Paterson, 50, has made his home in the Glens Falls, N.Y., area for many years, and his Adirondack hockey roots are deep. The Detroit Red Wings drafted Paterson in the fifth round in 1979, and he began his pro career in 1980 with the Adirondack Red Wings, playing parts of four seasons with the team.
Paterson began his coaching career with the Adirondack Red Wings, spending two years as an assistant to Newell Brown in 1992-94. He had head coaching stints in the Ontario Hockey League with Sault St. Marie and in the American Hockey League with Louisville.
Paterson spent five years as an AHL assistant with Hamilton and Toronto and was scouting for the Atlanta organization last season when the Flyers hired him. He also has ties to the Flyers, having played parts of two seasons with the organization in the 1980s. … The Binghamton Senators never trailed in their four-game sweep of the Charlotte Checkers in the Eastern Conference finals. Captain Ryan Keller scored from the top of the right circle off a faceoff win by Zack Smith at 13:05 of overtime Wednesday night to send the Senators into the Calder Cup finals for the first time in the team’s nine-year franchise history. They’re the first Binghamton AHL team to reach the finals since the Whalers lost to the New Brunswick Hawks in five games in 1982. The Senators will play the Western Conference champion Houston Aeros or Hamilton Bulldogs, who stayed alive again Friday night at home with a 4-2 victory behind Drew MacIntyre’s 31 saves. Former Wolf Pack and Rangers wing Jed Ortmeyer got the Aeros within 3-2 with 9:58 left, but Andrew Conboy scored an empty-net goal with 1:10 to go as the Bulldogs got to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. The Bulldogs won 8-1 Wednesday night as former Wolf Pack wing Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd each scored twice. Game 6 is Sunday afternoon at Houston, which also will host Game 7 on Tuesday night, if necessary.