I'll admit I'm from the old-school way of thinking about hockey: I like it fast, I like it physical, and a good fight never hurt anyone. The more that stories about concussions in hockey players come out, I have to admit that I'm starting to waver in my stance on the physical portion of the game. Don't get me wrong - I'm never going to soapbox any ideas about removing hitting from the game. That, readers, would be enough proof that I should be institutionalized. Instead, I do think that contact with the head should be a penalty, and I think players that throw checks to the head blatantly should forfeit a vast amount of their salaries to concussion-related research. After reading John Branch's latest three-part series in the New York Times, I'm very certain that concussion research funding should be at the top of the list for the NHL and NHLPA's charitable contributions.
The loss of Derek Boogaard this summer took everyone by surprise. His family was supposed to be meeting him for the weekend in New York, but Boogaard reportedly never left his apartment. He was found dead in his apartment from a deadly mixture of alcohol and painkillers. There were a lot of questions swirling about how a man like Boogaard - who seemingly had a great life - could wind up like this. Then we heard of Rick Rypien's tragic passing. And Wade Belak followed. While none of these players were intertwined in any way other than they were players in the NHL, I believe that everyone wanted more information on why these players felt the need to end their lives.
John Branch's three-part series on Derek Boogaard's life is rather extraordinary in its entirety. I've read this piece now about a dozen times, and I still find things that I have to re-read over and over just to try to get inside Derek Boogaard's mind. Mr. Branch has written an article that I feel should be at the top of everyone's list who gets a vote on this year's Pulitzer Prize Award. It's THAT good, and it deserves be honoured.
I've linked the three-part series below for convenience. Please read it in its entirety. I think you'll appreciate it as much as I have. Here is Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer.
Derek Boogaard: Blood on the Ice - Part Two
Derek Boogaard: A Brain Going Bad - Part Three
There's also a three-part video series for this same story, and it's just as interesting as the print version. Again, spend some time watching these. They are worth your time.
Derek Boogaard: Learning to Brawl - Part One
Derek Boogaard: Fight Club - Part Two
Derek Boogaard: Punch Drunk - Part Three
Yesterday, there was an excellent feature with one of Boogaard's former opponents, Todd Fedoruk. Fedoruk became good friends with the Boogeyman, and answered questions about Derek Boogaard, fighting in hockey, and his own hockey career. I have an incredible amount of respect for Todd Fedoruk answering some questions about the job he did in the NHL, and I can't imagine what it was like for him when Boogaard's death was reported.
If I had a vote, Mr. John Branch would be receiving the Pulitzer Prize this year for his excellent work in writing Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer. If all newspaper reporting was this good, the world would be a much better and much smarter place.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!