Mum’s heartbreaking note to dead son
Eight years ago, Derek Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment. And while time may pass the pain never will, especially for his mum Joanne.
The former Canadian ice hockey star, who played 277 games in the NHL for Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers, died aged 28 of an accidental overdose from alcohol and painkiller oxycodone as a result of trying to deal with the pain that came from taking so many hits on the ice.
An enforcer who was never afraid of fighting, the brutality of the sport took its toll on Boogaard, and eventually his life.
On the anniversary of his death, Joanne penned a touching note to her son in her local newspaper where she reflected on what made him so special.
"Hi Derek, 8 years have passed and I still wait to hear your voice again, just a phone call to let me know you're OK," Joanne wrote. "Little did I know that the last phone call I missed from you was your last one - oh how I wish to turn back the clock.
"Remembering you is easy, tears fall from my eyes, my heart aches, but when I remember the happy times we had, a smile comes to my face, still so many emotions. I remember your grin, your saying 'oh yea', your eyes that shone with laughter, your walk, your big teddy bear heart you had for everyone."
Joanne told Boogaard about how his family members are travelling, glowing with pride as she recounted their achievements. But the updates are tinged with sadness knowing the hockey icon isn't around to experience them.
"Your family still copes; days, weeks, months, years have gone by and we still celebrate your birthday, there is always a spot for you at Christmas," she wrote. "Curtis's place at Turtle Lake is beautiful, you would have loved it there, it was your dream place to have for us all to be together.
"Gladys is done with dentistry now, we are so very proud of her. Logan has a baby girl (Lila) - wow has he grown up and is finishing up law school. Haden of course is playing hockey (goalie, thank goodness) and thinks of you all the time. Molly is busy with her hockey, baseball, and music.
"Ryan and Lisa are doing great with your little niece Skylar who is almost 5 now, and knows your name very well from all the pictures we all have of you around our homes. Krysten just finished her 3rd year of nursing school, doing fantastic - another proud moment.
"Tyson is still firefighting and they also have their wood business which keeps them both super busy (HAGER WOOD SHOP). Aaron and his girlfriend Hailey are expecting a baby in August and doing very well, it's very exciting. You will be sure to know, he will know his uncle Derek, too.
"Our family is growing and missing you."
An examination of Boogaard's brain revealed he was suffering from degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by repeated blows to the head. He became addicted to painkillers and was admitted into the NHL's substance abuse program but tragically he could not be saved.
In the face of such devastating circumstances, Joanne takes heart from the knowledge her son is still helping people. He may not be around to see the difference he's making but she knows he'll never be forgotten.
"Boston is still working hard with CTE at making more people aware of the safety of all athletes. Donating your brain has helped in so many ways, as painful as it was for us," she wrote.
"NHL still has a lot of work to do at acknowledging and accepting responsibility for players who have passed and those who are out there with CTE and don't even know it.
"You did help in getting more awareness out there. People just need to read your book/story by John Branch, BOY on ICE; the facts are all there.
"Always loved, never forgotten, forever missed."