The Boogeyman Drops the Gloves

Derek Boogaard is one of the most feared enforcers in the NHL. You wanna go?

It's November 6, 2005, and the Boogeyman is fighting Anaheim's Trevor Gillies. Spinning on the ice like figure skaters, the two clutch each other's jerseys and fire rapid right crosses. The Boogeyman lands an uppercut that staggers Gillies, then rears back and throws the knockout punch.

Gillies collapses like a marionette with its strings cut. In the slow-motion replay, the Boogeyman can be seen skating away before Gillies hits the ice.

"Wow, that was a shot by Boogaard," the Anaheim announcer says. "And you know what? I'll give Boogaard credit, because he knew he had hurt Gillies, and he immediately stopped and got away from him."

As his rookie NHL season progressed, the Boogeyman tangled with some of the league's most established enforcers—Donald Brashear and Georges Laraque among them—racking up 158 penalty minutes.

That summer, the Wild signed him to a $525,000, one-year contract.

This season, the Boogeyman came out fighting. He pummeled Columbus's Jody Shelly, Los Angeles's Raitis Ivanans, and Anaheim's Shane O'Brien.

Then, in the next period of the Anaheim game, the Boogeyman fought Todd Fedoruk in a battle that would permanently change both combatants.

No one can say Fedoruk didn't ask for it. He chased the Boogeyman and grabbed the tail of his jersey. After the whistle, Fedoruk ran Boogaard into the boards.

"Here he goes after him now, and we'll see if Boogaard takes him on it," the announcer says, in a YouTube clip of the fight.

"Why wouldn't he?" the color commentator asks.

The Boogeyman grabs the sweater and joins the fight. Fedoruk stumbles. The Boogeyman works the left, then unleashes a hard right hand.

Fedoruk goes weightless, reaching for his face to hold his eyeball in. After he leaves the game, an ambulance takes him to the hospital. Surgeons insert titanium plates to fix his shattered orbital socket.

Many fight fans point to that punch as the moment the Boogeyman truly arrived.

"Anytime where over the next month they're gonna say, 'He broke someone's face,' that's gonna get you somewhere," says Hockeyfights.com's Singer.

Because of the injury, Fedoruk tried to protect his face in his fight with Orr. That opened him up for the knockout punch that left him prone on the ice. Now commentators are saying that Fedoruk shouldn't fight anymore because he's too vulnerable to being knocked out. But what's an enforcer to do if he can't drop the gloves?

"It's unfortunate what happened, but what if I was in that situation?" the Boogeyman says when asked about breaking Fedoruk's face. "Would he let up on a punch? Not a chance."

 

To succeed in the modern NHL, the Boogeyman has to pick his spots carefully. Choked by a salary cap, teams have fewer roster slots for pure tough guys.

"The position is evolving," says Ross Bernstein, the Eagan-based author of The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL. "The goon is gone."

So the Boogeyman has found a way to contribute without dropping his gloves. Take the Wild's March 1 game against the Edmonton Oilers. In just five and a half minutes on the ice, the Boogeyman sparked two melees that resulted in 20 minutes of penalites for the Oilers, putting his team on the power play.

"He's been drawing a lot of penalties, and we score some goals from that," says Wild right wing Marian Gaborik.

It's March 22—55 long days since the Boogeyman's last fight—but all that's about to change in front of 15,568 fans at the Xcel Energy Center.

In the first period, Blues center Doug Weight crushes the Boogeyman against the boards and shoves off him for good measure. Both players earn two-minute penalties, but the Boogeyman keeps his gloves on.

When Weight comes back from the penalty box, he scores a goal on the Wild. This is an insult that the Boogeyman will not bear.

God intervenes. With 16 minutes remaining in the game, Weight catches the puck with his face—an injury that sends him to the bench with a mouthful of blood.

As Weight limps off the ice, the Boogeyman taunts, "How's your mouth?"

The Wild are up 4-1, and menace hangs in the air. The next faceoff, the Boogeyman lines up opposite Blues left wing D.J. King.

The Boogeyman hesitates. He looks to Coach Lemaire for approval. Getting it, the Boogeyman drops the gloves.

Three quick jabs knock King's helmet off. Uppercut! King shakes off an elbow pad. They tie up. The Boogeyman gets loose and throws bombs. Uppercut! Kidney shot! The Boogeyman is tenderizing King like a cheap piece of meat.

"King wanted this," the color commentator says. "And right now Boogaard is taking it to him."

"King is just hanging on, Mike," the other announcer says. "He just wants this to be over."

"Well, it's gonna be over, and it's gonna be over in a bad way for him."

"Time to go down, son."

The zebras have the same idea. They skate in and break up a fight that has lasted over a minute—a marathon by hockey standards.

"I'll tell you right now, all the bench from the Wild start yelling, 'Go! Go! Go!,'" the announcer says. "They wanted to see Boogaard take care of business, and he certainly does that."

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