Donald Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, said in a statement: “The NHLPA is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Derek Boogaard. Derek was a well-liked and respected member of the NHLPA, and his passing is a great loss to the entire hockey community. Our sincere condolences to Derek’s many friends and family during this difficult time.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Boogaard was found dead at his apartment in Minneapolis by family members around 6:10 p.m. An autopsy will be performed Saturday, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office.
Niklas Backstrom, a goaltender with the Minnesota Wild and a former teammate of Boogaard, told the Star-Tribune: "I don't know how to describe it. It's really hard. Unreal guy. Great friend and an awesome teammate. Just a really big teddy bear. Outside the rink, he didn't want bad for anyone."
Boogaard signed a four-year, $6.5 million deal with Rangers in July and appeared in 22 games with them last season. He had a goal and an assist to go with 45 penalty minutes.
One of the most feared fighters in the league, Boogaard missed the last 52 games of the regular season with a concussion and shoulder injury and did not play in the playoffs.
Boogaard began his NHL career with Minnesota and appeared in 255 games with the Wild from 2005-10.
In 277 regular-season games with Minnesota and the Rangers over six seasons, he had three goals and 13 assists and 589 penalty minutes.
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native was Minnesota's seventh-round choice, 202nd overall, in the 2001 draft.