Former Tri-City Americans forward Aaron Boogaard will be among several NHL and other hockey players hitting the ice today in Minneapolis for a charity game to benefit Defending the Blue Line.
Boogaard, 25, who spent last season with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League, is playing in memory of his older brother, Derek Boogaard, who died May 13, 2011, at age 28.
Derek Boogaard was an ardent supporter of Defending the Blue Line, starting Boogaard’s Boogaardians to send military children to hockey camp shortly after DTBL was formed.
After Boogaard’s death, his family asked that all memorials go to Defending the Blue Line for Boogaard’s Boogaardians.
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“This is my first game,” Aaron Boogaard said. “I’m not preparing to drop the gloves, that’s for sure. I’ve done a lot of work with all of these (military) guys. Last summer, my sister Krysten and I did sniper training with them. We’ve spent a lot of time in Minneapolis over the years. Derek always called it home. It’s a pleasure to go back."
Today’s game is at Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota.
DTBL is a non-profit organization in Hastings, Minn., founded in 2009 by Shane Hudella. The organization ensures that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in hockey by providing free equipment, as well as hockey camps, special events and financial assistance for registration fees and other costs associated with hockey.
A first sergeant in the Army, Hudella will retire from the military at the end of June after 24 years of service.
“I didn’t play a ton growing up,” Hudella said. “I got into hockey later in life and became a fanatic. During Desert Storm in 1991, our whole platoon gathered around a small TV and watched the (Minnesota) North Stars and (Pittsburgh) Penguins play for the (Stanley) Cup.”
Derek Boogaard played for the Minnesota Wild from 2005-10 before being traded to the New York Rangers, where he played part of the 2010-11 season before an injury cut his season short.
Though he got traded from Minnesota, he continued to support DTBL.
“Derek was such an awesome guy on and off the ice,” Hudella said. “He was an NHL tough guy, but he would give you the shirt off of his back. I miss him dearly. We invited Aaron to come down and play. We wanted to continue Derek’s legacy, and a way to do that is to keep his family involved.”
Though the Boogaards are from Saskatchewan, they have great regard for the U.S. military.
“The things they do, we can’t repay,” Boogaard said. “Even being Canadian, it’s hard not to appreciate what they do. Anything I can do for these guys. It’s nothing to drive down here and play a hockey game.”
Also supporting DTBL is former Tri-City American Clayton Stoner, now a Wild defenseman.
Stoner, 27, isn’t able to play in today’s game, but he supports the cause during the hockey season.
“Shane is a good friend of mine, and this is a great cause,” said Stoner, a native of Port McNeill, British Columbia. “Giving him a little of my time to help military families is the least I can do. Derek got into it before I was in Minnesota. Derek moved on to New York, and it was easy for me to get in touch with Shane and see what they are all about. I knew it was Boogie’s favorite charity, and I’m glad to help.”
Hudella is happy to have Stoner aboard.
“Clayton does a ton for us during the year,” Hudella said. “He’s is a super nice guy. I know it’s tough to travel back from places like British Columbia for one game.”
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