Reporting Rachel Slavik
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – It was an emotional night at the Xcel Energy Center, but the focus wasn’t on the ice. Hundreds of fans attended a memorial service for former Minnesota Wild player Derek Boogaard.
The 28-year-old was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment on Friday. The Boogaard family attended the memorial service to thank fans in person.
“We want to say thank you for taking the time to come here and honor a man who was a son, a brother, a friend and a teammate,” said Krysten Boogaard, Derek’s sister.
For Boogaard’s family, just mentioning him brings overwhelming emotion. Speaking for the first time since their brother’s death, Krysten and Ryan Boogaard remembered a gentle soul who’s on the ice demeanor did not reflect his character.
“Derek was known as a teddy bear. Our family couldn’t agree more with this assessment,” said Krysten Boogaard, Derek’s sister.
“There wasn’t a person in our lives that didn’t have more love to give or love to receive,” said Ryan Boogaard, Derek’s brother.
It’s a reputation that was not lost on fans. From the turnout at the memorial service, it’s clear Boogaard still meant something to the Minnesota hockey community.
“We still love Boogie. He will always be in our hearts,” said Julie Drain, a Boogaard fan.
In fact, it’s two fans who can take the credit for organizing his memorial.
“We never imagined it would be this huge,” said Shelby Leske, a Boogaard fan.
Shelby Leske and Katie Haag just wanted a place to share their favorite Boogie memories, but it turned into much more. It not only gave fans a place to pay their respects, it also allowed his family a chance to start healing.
“As you can see, Minnesota misses him a lot,” said Haag.
“Derek’s legacy will live with us every day,” said Ryan Boogaard, Derek’s brother.
Boogaard’s family said that they will donate his brain for research for further study on head trauma injuries.
A funeral has been planned for this Saturday at 10 a.m. in Regina, Saskatchewan. The funeral will be held at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Depot and is open only to family and close friends. The public will be invited to watch the service from a video feed in an adjacent chapel.