Lemaire, who coached the 28-year-old for four seasons with the Wild, could not believe what he had heard. “I really was very shocked for many reasons,” Lemaire told Newsday when reached by phone yesterday afternoon. “He was a good person and a healthy, strong young man. It always makes you wonder why things like this happen, especially to someone so young.”
Lemaire, who took over the Devils this past season after they dismissed coach John MacLean in December, said he doesn’t know how to grapple with such awful news.
“It’s so hard when you hear a thing like this. It’s hard to deal with this,” he said. “Everyone I talked to is very sad about this.”
Like Lemaire, Ruslan Fedotenko, Boogaard’s Rangers teammate, was rocked by his death. “I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe it. It’s one of those things that just seems surreal,” Fedotenko said when reached at a Rangers community event in Manhattan.
The 32-year-old right wing said he recently spoke with Boogaard about his plans this summer and said the 6-7 tough guy was enthused about getting ready for 2011-12. “I just talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and he was excited for the summer to get ready for the next season. We talked about other things,” Fedotenko said. “It’s hard to imagine that he’s not going to be there now. It’s really tragic and unfortunate.”
Also at the event was Rangers Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert, who expressed his deep regret about Boogaard’s death. “I was very saddened. I knew Derek during the year and spent some time with him,” Gilbert said. “I don’t know exactly any details at this moment, I haven’t talked to anyone, but it’s just important to his family that we all wish them well and we’re very sad.”
Gilbert, who works for the Rangers as the director of special projects and community relations representative, said Boogaard’s loss will be felt across the hockey community.
“Certainly, we offer our condolences and all the best to his family,’’ Gilbert said. “He’s a member of our family, the Rangers, and we’re very saddened.”