Derek Boogaard dead at the age of 28. Cause: chronic traumatic encephalopathy or C.T.E, brain damage that mirrors Alzheimer’s disease and is caused by repeated blows to the head. As an avid hockey fan, I believe the role of fighting in the sport must be analyzed, but that is certainly not the focus of this article. For me, one of the tragedies of Boogaard’s death is his belief that his only value was as a hockey enforcer.
“Boogaard rarely complained about the toll – the crumpled and broken hands, the aching back and the concussions that nobody cared to count. But those who believe Boogaard loved to fight have it wrong. He loved what it brought: a continuation of an unlikely hockey career. And he loved what it meant: vengeance against a lifetime of perceived doubters and the gratitude of teammates glad that he would do a job they could not imagine.
He did not acknowledge the damage to his brain, the changes in his personality, even the addictions that ultimately killed him in the prime of his career. If he did recognize the toll, he dismissed it as the mere cost of getting everything he ever wanted.” ~ from “John Branch’s Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer”/Part 1 in The New York Times
From Part 3: “Boogaard was embarrassed and worried that news of his addiction would shatter his reputation. He was also concerned that someone would take his role. From rehabilitation, he tracked the preseason fights of teammates and texted friends to gauge how badly he was missed.”
This is heartbreaking. The story is so raw for me and I thought it was because it was about a New York Rangers player. As I write this I can see my stack of season tickets out of the corner of my eye. Hockey is my life. And the Rangers? I see themmore often than I do my friends from October through springtime (June, hopefully!). This is a serious connection. But the life and death of Derek Boogaard is more than “hockey” to me. After reading this three-part series in the Times, I realize why it hurts so much: Boogaard was willing to do whatever he thought he had to in order to realize his dream, even if it killed him. His ego didn’t let him walk away from something that was so damaging to his mind, body and spirit.
This series brought back the memory of me nearly passing out on the tennis courts in Central Park and somehow making it back to the east side. I can hear myself making the call, tears streaming down my face, and saying, “Claudia, I need to see you. I think I have an eating disorder.” Embarrassed? You bet. Ashamed? Absolutely! How did I let this happen?
I thank G-d and my “dynamic duo” (therapist and wellness coach) who started me on a journey through life that I embrace and enjoy every single day. Are there ups and downs? Certainly. Do I get stressed, annoyed, frustrated, mad and sad? Of course. And, fortunately, I have learned to believe in myself and know that I have what it takes to achieve my goals without sabotage and sacrifice.