City Pages:When did you start playing hockey?
Derek Boogaard: I started skating when I was two or three, just like any kid back home. I grew up all over the place—my dad is a RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] officer up in Canada, so probably an average of four years we stayed before he'd get transferred. I lived all over Saskatchewan, all over the Toronto area. I started my first year of organized hockey when I was four or five. I was always that guy that would joke around. I actually hit kids when I wasn't supposed to—we weren't allowed to hit until peewees—so I'd always get in trouble. I was a short, chubby little kid.
CP: Did you have to fight a lot as a kid?
Boogaard:It's surprising how brutal little kids are. It was an unfortunate thing. My dad was a cop, and my dad had to do his job, and he would have to give older kids tickets, and then they'd want to come and fight me.
CP: Did you get your ass kicked?
Boogaard: Oh yeah, a few times. But I eventually got them back, so it's all right.
CP: What was your first big fight?
Boogaard: We were losing 6-2 or something, and I just got pissed off, really mad about something. And I just fought and fought—fought one kid, I fought another kid—I don't know how it happened, but I was in their bench asking the whole team to fight. They just kind of backed up—they didn't want to do anything.
There was a Regina Pats scout watching the game and after the game the team decided to list me and protect me so no other teams could pick me up. The next year I went to camp and I beat up one of their tough guys, and it went from there.
CP: What was it like making the transition from the AHL to the NHL?
Boogaard: It was obviously a lot faster. There's a lot more skill finish—guys could finish plays better up here. In the American league, the guys are still learning. You're only allowed to have four guys on the team that played over 250 games. I notice that a lot: Everything is more polished.
CP: What was it like coming in with the chaos of the lockout?
Boogaard: It was scary. I thought I was honestly going to get sent down in Houston any given day almost. And even this year there's been times when it's like, "Oh jeez," you know? It's never a comfortable thing. I think I keep up. I make hits. I make plays here and there. I think I've helped out. Every game I play I honest to God just sit there and think this could be my last game. And people might think it's stupid, but that's how I get ready. It could be my last game, I could get two shifts, I could get one shift, so why not go out and give it your all and see what happens? I could get hurt. Anything could happen. I could get punched. My face could get broken in a fight and I could never play again. I just don't want to look back and say, What if I would have worked a little harder?
CP: Is it harder to be a tough guy post-lockout?
Boogaard: There's no point in having just one guy to go out and fight and that's it. What makes a difference in the game is you get in their face, you're hitting, you're causing havoc, you're making a team uncomfortable—that's making a difference. And if you have to fight you have to fight, and that makes a difference as well. I think during the lockout, they just got rid of their tough guys because they didn't know what to expect. So now what the scouts are doing is looking for big guys that can skate. I tell everyone who comes up to ask me, "How'd you do it?" Just skate. That's it. They can teach you everything else.
CP: What's it like being the team's enforcer?
Boogaard: They don't treat you any different. They have respect for you, that you don't have as much skill as some of the guys, but they know you're there working hard and you want to be as good as them, or better. And the guys do see it, they respect you a lot, but they don't treat you any different. Here they don't treat me any different and I think that's great, they shouldn't.
CP: Do you ever get intimidated going into a game where you know you might fight?
Boogaard: There are tough guys in the league. You can win a fight by one punch—and I know that—just because of how big the guys are in the league. Now guys train to fight. Before, you know, guys would just go have their fun in the summer and have a few bar fights. But now guys actually train to do the job. Sometimes it's intimidating, but I just brush it off. I don't really think about it.
CP: How did you feel about the Todd Fedoruk fight where you broke his face?
Boogaard: He actually chased me from one end of the rink to the other. I didn't want to fight—I think we were winning 2-0 or something like that. He got a penalty because he dropped one of his gloves in our end, and he just came to the corner where I was at, and just kind of grabbed me, so I dropped my gloves. He's the one that wanted to fight. It's unfortunate what happened, but what if I was in that situation? Would he let up on a punch? Not a chance. I'd feel bad if I went out there and I was egging the guy on and then I hurt him.
CP: What's the worst injury you've had?
Boogaard: I've had a broken jaw. It was in a fight when I was 17. A guy named Mike Lee, I think he was 20 or something like that. Broke my jaw. That sucked. I don't think you'd ever wish that on anyone. I would grind my teeth all day every day, just clamp down, and three and a half weeks into the recovery, I popped my jaw open and ripped the wires right out. I was so mad. I was mad for three and a half weeks, just grinding my teeth. So I went to the hospital and they just yanked all the wires off. I had to be careful. They said it was all intact, it was just really soft. You've got to be careful. It hasn't broken since.
CP: How's your hand?
Boogaard: I've broken all the bones; my whole hand is pretty messed up. Scar tissue, calluses. Before I would just throw punches, and if it hit the helmet, I hit the helmet. But now you're more calm, you're thinking, you know where to throw a punch, when to throw a punch, and hopefully it lands.
CP: What's it like fighting Georges Laraque?
Boogaard: He's a big, strong guy, but he's never going to open up with me, so it's just pretty much noogies and a bear hug. He is tough; I just wish that one time he'd want to go toe to toe.
CP: How do you feel about the instigator rule?
Boogaard: I usually wait for guys to drop their gloves first, because there's a good chance that if I drop the gloves, they're not going to drop them, and then I'm going to get a penalty and I'll get in trouble. So I'll just sit there and wait for them to drop their gloves. And I haven't backed away from a fight yet.
CP: Compare the feeling of scoring a goal to knocking a guy out.
Boogaard: I think it's the same thing, to be honest with you. Because I don't fight for myself, I fight for the guys. And then the guys get pretty jacked up about it, too, when I go out there and fight. It's just like scoring a goal.
CP: Is it frustrating when you're injured and can't play?
Boogaard: Definitely it's frustrating. You can't go out with the team, and then you see other teams take liberties with your players. That's the hardest thing, because you knew if you were playing they wouldn't be doing that. And you feel sorry for the guys, too, if they get injured. Like Pav [Demitra] got a concussion, you feel bad, because you want to be in the lineup, and now because you're not in the lineup, another guy gets hurt.
CP: What's your reaction to critics online who say you're a goon?
Boogaard: There's a ton of people who say I shouldn't play in the NHL. They say I can't skate, I'm not a hockey player, I just fight, that's all I can do. I just there and laugh. And it's a good feeling to prove those people wrong.