Both of the respective tough guys in the Vancouver-San Jose playoff series were asked if they had ever fought the late Derek Boogaard, and both shot their inquisitor a telling look.
"No," said Vancouver's Tanner Glass, his eyes widening. "I don't fight guys like that."
"No," San Jose's Ben Eager replied with a wry grin. "He was pretty feared guy."
At 6 foot 7, and 265 pounds, few braved to tangle with the former NHL enforcer. Not the 210-pound Glass, who tends to punch above his weight class, and not the 235-pound Eager, who concedes little in the intimidation department.
Neither Glass nor Eager consider themselves "enforcers," and neither felt they had the chops to drop the gloves with Boogaard.
"He was a monster out there: 6-7 and tough as nails," Eager said. "I don't even think if you got a clean shot on him that it would hurt him."
Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment late last week. No cause of death has been announced. He was 28.
For five seasons, he served as the Minnesota Wild's enforcer, and played the Canucks six times per year in the Northwest Division. Nicknamed the "Boogeyman," it was Boogaard who placed the "Pinky and the Brain" tag on Vancouver's Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. Daniel Sedin said the twins look back on the rivalry with the Wild and Boogaard as a "fun" period in their careers, and that the big, intimidating giant on the other team made for a good headline whenever the teams clashed.
But there was also plenty of sympathy for Boogaard's family in the Vancouver and San Jose dressing rooms, especially after the Canucks honoured his memory prior to Game 1. Glass, who skated with Boogaard during the summer, said he was pleased that the hockey community remembers its fallen with such tributes, while Eager said Boogaard should be remembered for performing his duties well, and with respect.
Most of all, however, both indicated that they didn't relish the role that Boogaard was asked to play, and the one that is receiving scrutiny in the wake of his death. Asked about having to fight to keep one's job, Glass and Eager said the following:
"It's tough just to know each night that you are going to be tangling with those customers. I know he wasn't scared of guys like that, or intimidated, but with the size of people he is fighting, any punch can be a pretty serious punch. It's a tough job and he did better than most.
"You have to be a different kind of person to do that. It takes a type of mental toughness that every guy in the league doesn't have. It takes a little bit of a craziness. I don't want to say reckless, because you know what you're doing, but it's something.
"I don't really see the point of fighting for no reason, at the start of a game. I don't really do that. If someone comes up to you in the face-off circle and says 'Let's fight,' I don't really see the point of it. There's no point in taking a punch in the head for no reason.
"I tend to fight when a buddy or a teammate gets taken advantage of, and it gets you fired up, and you think something has to be done. Yeah, I'll step in there. But these pointless fights off faceoffs, I don't get involved in them."Report Typo/Error