Rangers' Derek Boogaard found dead

Updated: December 27, 2011, 8:58 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead Friday in his Minneapolis apartment. He was 28.

The team announced Boogaard's death on Friday night, but gave no details.

The Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis first reported Boogaard was found dead in his home at 6:10 p.m. local time Friday by his brothers, Ryan and Aaron. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy Saturday, but county spokeswoman Carol Allis said authorities probably won't release results for at least two weeks.

She says in cases where there's no obvious sign of physical trauma, authorities need time to get results of laboratory tests.

"The news that we have lost someone so young and so strong leaves everyone in the National Hockey League stunned and saddened," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement Saturday. "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."

Boogaard signed a four-year, $6.5 million deal with the Rangers in July and appeared in 22 games with them last season. He had a goal and an assist to go with 45 penalty minutes.

"Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual," Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said. "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."

One of the most feared fighters in the league, Boogaard, 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, missed the last 52 games of the regular season with a concussion and shoulder injury and did not play in the playoffs.

"I did not want to have the year I had for my first year," he told the Star Tribune in a text message in April. "I disappointed a lot of people. So I gotta work my [butt] off this summer so I can get back to what I was doing in Minny, you know?"

Boogaard began his NHL career with Minnesota and appeared in 255 games with the Wild from 2005 to 2010. In 277 regular-season games with Minnesota and the Rangers, he had three goals and 13 assists and 589 penalty minutes.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was the Wild's seventh-round choice, 202nd overall, in the 2001 draft.

He was a fan favorite in Minnesota and popular with his teammates, who knew the gentle inside personality that often was overshadowed by his on-ice toughness.

Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who played with Boogaard for four seasons, called him a "really big teddy bear."

"Unreal guy. Great friend and an awesome teammate," Backstrom told the Star Tribune. "Outside the rink, he didn't want bad for anyone. If you don't know him, if you just know him by what he does on the ice, you don't know how great he is. Smiling every day. At the rink, I don't think he was mad at anyone ever."

"The NHLPA is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Derek Boogaard," NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. "Derek was a well-liked and respected member of the NHLPA, and his passing is a great loss to the entire hockey community. Our sincere condolences to Derek's many friends and family during this difficult time."

Boogaard took an active role in community endeavors with the two teams he played for in his career, particularly with regard to the military. He supported the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation that aims to help children of military members play hockey.

He created "Boogaard's Booguardians" with the Rangers, hosting military members and their families at Madison Square Garden for all Rangers home games. He also worked with the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

It is the second death of a player in the Rangers organization in the past three years. Alexei Cherepanov, chosen by New York with the 17th overall pick in the 2007 draft, died in Chekhov, Russia, on Oct. 13, 2008, after collapsing on the bench during a KHL game while playing with Avangard Omsk. The 19-year-old Cherepanov didn't sign with the Rangers and never played in the NHL.

Roman Lyashenko, who briefly played with the Rangers several years ago, was found dead in a hotel room in Turkey while on vacation in 2003. His death was believed to be a suicide.

Boogaard is survived by his two brothers; mother, Joanne; father, Len; and sister Krysten.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Matt Ehalt and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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