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De mortuis nihil nisi bonum

There are some events that come to my attention that beg for a response, and some that simply deserve pity for the person or people involved. Sports columnists seem to enjoy the attention that comes from behaving like they are the Howard Stern of sports, and I am most certain their editors don't mind the clicks on the site and the papers they may sell while diving into the deep end of disingenuousness, disrespect, and fact bending. Generally, they just end up being pitied. 

Sometimes, however, a situation occurs where even I, the holier than thou, sarcastic, bitter, sanctimonious, back biting blogger that answers to no one and never leaves his mom's basement is at a loss for how to respond. Generally, when the reaction is so guttural, so full of raw emotion, I simply let it pass, knowing it will likely do more damage than it is worth, or cause me and Hockey Wilderness to look bad while calling attention to a buffoon.

There are somethings that send me so far over the edge it takes almost a full week to find the words that fit, and even then they don't quite do it. There are few ways to respond to pure disrespect that don't involve stooping to the level of those involved. One of those ways is how Derek Boogaard made his living in the NHL, and is not a luxury afforded to us off the ice. However, somethings don't get to fly by without some one stepping up and saying it is not acceptable, that this shall not pass in our world. 

This is one of those times. Make the jump. You won't be sorry you did. This will take awhile, I apologize in advance.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2011, the New York Rangers made a very classy, very honorable decision to donate a yearly scholarship to military children in the New York area to participate in a hockey camp. The scholarship donation was made to an organization you have all read about here at Hockey Wilderness, Defending the Blue Line. The scholarships are an extension of DTBL's mission, and flow logically from Derek's commitment to the organization.

Excellent. Nothing bad can come of this. Two kids are getting the chance to participate in an excellent hockey camp, learn some valuable hockey skills, and take their minds off of the pressures that come from being in a military family. The Rangers honor the memory of a fallen team mate and friend, and do so in a way that will, in their own words "honor the legacy of Derek Booagaard."

Simple enough, right? Send out the press release, nothing controversial here. Kids being helped, memories being honored. 

Apparently not for the crowd that can't read Latin, and never learned the lesson "Don't speak ill of the dead." You see, Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette decided that he hadn't gotten his time in the sun in regards to Derek's unfortunate passing. Hickey had not felt the glow of the limelight enough for his liking. No, the Rangers doing the right thing by everyone involved just wasn't quite good enough for Mr. Hickey.

For the record, the Rangers sent out this on Twitter to announce the scholarship:

To honor former #NYR Derek Boogaard's legacy team is presenting 2 scholarships annually for Rangers Summer Youth Hockey Camp to children from Defending the Blue Line, charity created by Boogaard    

Immediately following the announcement, Hickey sent out this tweet:


Anyone want to venture a guess why it took me five days to write this post?

Let's break this down. 

Sorry, but I doin't [sic] get it.

You are absolutely right, sir. You absolutely do not get it. Your level of "not getting it" is off the charts. You don't "get" respect. You don't "get" common courtesy. You don't "get" class. The only thing you "get" is that writing a tweet such as this would garner a reaction, which no doubt is better than intravenous Viagra for you. 

What legacy?

The legacy he left behind of helping military kids play hockey. The legacy you never took the time to learn about before popping off on Twitter. A simple Google search would have taught you his legacy, sir. What legacy? What legacy

The legacy of Derek Boogaard, as I informed you via email, is many layers thick. Teammates called him one of the best, most selfless people they ever met, and they were all glad to have him on their side. His family made it clear just how selfless he was, calling him a "teddy bear" and telling of how many times he would drop what he was doing to help others. That's a legacy in and of itself. A dedicated, loving man who stood up for his friends and family. 

You want a more direct line? I've got that, too. 

Derek spent more hours helping Defending the Blue Line than almost anyone else. He attended fundraisers, donated money, spent time with military families, and on more than one occasion, spent more time than he had intended with kids who simply wanted to say they had met the giant. He bought tickets to every Rangers home game to be donated to military service members. He spoke often of his love for the military, and his desire to serve one day.

So tell me how donating scholarships is not a direct line of reasoning from his works in his life to works that would honor his memory, and the legacy of helping military kids play hockey?

If he doesn't die he is a drug abusing goon not a role model.

I am going to go out on a limb and tell you I could find 200 kids who would say otherwise. I'll bet I can find 300+ people who showed up at the X to simply say goodbye in a spur of the moment memorial that would tell you otherwise. I bet I could find countless NHL players, executives, and officials who would tell you otherwise. If that doesn't sway you, I would tell you otherwise. If everyone was as dedicated to others as Derek was, this world would be a much better place. 

The words "if he doesn't die" make me sick to my stomach. If he doesn't die, Derek is still around. If he doesn't die, a family is not forever left to mourn the loss of their loved one. If he doesn't die, he laces up the skates for the Rangers and gets a chance to avenge his lost season. If he doesn't die, far more than two kids get to attend hockey camps. If he doesn't die, the possibilities are endless because Derek would still be here, still alive, and still acting as a role model on how to be a better person.

If he doesn't die... I wouldn't be here tonight wondering just why such despicable people as you, Mr. Hickey, exist in the same world as people like the Boogaards. 

For the record, I sent Mr. Hickey an email, detailing out how Derek has a legacy. It was very courteous, and far more polite than Mr. Hickey deserved. His response:

Bryan, I appreciate your comments but as I said in my tweet, I don't get it.
I'm sure that Derek, as is the case with many athletes, was involved in charitable causes and that's a virtue in itself in a country which doesn't seem to care about its people. I know more about addiction than most people and I have resperct for thiose deal with it; compassion for those who don't have the resources and support to deal with it and little sympathy for people who have the money, support and resouirces to deal with and don't. It seems to me that Derek Boogard falls into that last category.
As for being a goon, nobody can defend callling him a hockey player. He was a fighter who couldn't stand on skates.

We already know you don't get it. You told us that. After reading the email, the first thing that crossed my mind was to ask if I could take the shovel from him, as he was trying to dig his way out of a hole. 

Then, a couple lines hit me.

 I know more about addiction than most people and I have resperct for thiose deal with it; compassion for those who don't have the resources and support to deal with it and little sympathy for people who have the money, support and resouirces to deal with and don't. It seems to me that Derek Boogard falls into that last category.     

Derek had the support and resources to "deal with it," and didn't? He didn't deal with it? For someone who claims to have experience with addiction, the terms "deal with it" seem awfully bitter. Addiction is not something you "deal with," it is something you fight, something you battle for the rest of your life. I won't go into the steps Derek had taken to address his addiction. They matter little, other than to note that he had taken them, and was battling the demons that many face, and many lose to, even with far great resources and support.

I thought I could not be any further disgusted by Mr. Hickey after his tweet. After reading his defense of it, I was once again reminded that the depths of human depravity know no bounds. If he didn't die was met with he didn't deal with it.

You want to call him a goon? Fine. We can debate the value of enforcers some other time. But to be so callous and caviler with language as to disparage the memory of a good man based on human frailty and faults is sub-human. I am offended as a writer, as a hockey fan, and as a human being, sir. Your depraved indifference to the family and friends of Derek Booagaard, and to his memory, is repulsive. 

The title of the post translates to "Speak no ill of the dead." There are many reasons why when someone dies, the criticism should stop. The foremost reason is out of respect for those left behind. Why continue to drag them through this? You are entitled to an opinion, but you are also entitled to keep it to yourself. Respect. I learned it in first grade, maybe Mrs. Herrig should give you a call.

The other thing that strikes me is that sports writers have their own code. If they chastise a player, call them out, or in any way comment negatively about them, they do that player the honor of confronting them, face-to-face, and dealing with the issue. It is a very specific reason we do not speak ill of the dead. It is honor-less in that you cannot face Derek, and answer the bell for your words. It is a coward's errand to belittle the dead. 

I have read columnists write about players for actions on and off the field. I have read words from columnists that make me angry, happy, sad, fill with pity and empty with tears. I have never, to this point, been so repulsed by the words of a columnist that it took five days to think about it without feeling the desire to retch from the surfeit of cravenness involved in not only your opinion, but the desire and need for you to express them in response to something so kind and warmhearted.

You, Mr. Hickey, have built a career out of being the man people love to hate. You have accomplished your goal, and made what I can only imagine is a comfortable living doing so. After reading your thoughts on this matter, the hate in my body for you is gone. The feelings of anger and hatred are instead replaced with those of pity and sadness, for yours is a truly bitter existence. To think anyone would crouch to such levels to garner a reaction is mind numbing and truly makes me wish you could find a source of happiness other than belying the respect due to a mourning family and the memory of a man you clearly never got to know.

I hope Dante saved a special ring just for you, and that one day, you are called to answer the bell for your actions, with the Boogeyman waiting on the ice to test your ability to stand on your skates while cowering in fear. You are, without a doubt, one of the most abominable people I have ever had the displeasure of having to find a place for in my world. 

I loathe the day I read your comment, and hope beyond hope that one day senility takes the memory of you from me. I will thank you for just one thing. Thank you for reminding me, one more time, of just how good a man Derek really was, human frailties and all.