By Greg Harder
CanWest News Service
REGINA — When Aaron and Derek Boogaard (pictured), who began his professional career in the ECHL, take a wannabe tough guy to school, they usually do it on the ice.
The venue switched to the classroom this week when the Boogaard brothers — who make the Hansons of Slapshot fame look like lightweights — staged their inaugural hockey fighting camp at a Regina training centre.
The clinic included more than 30 registered players from age 12 to 18 who signed on to receive a crash course from two of the toughest customers in the game.
“We’re out here to show kids how to look after themselves when they’re on the ice,” said Derek Boogaard, a 25-year-old enforcer with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
“We’re showing them the little things that would help them out, rather than them learning the hard way and getting hurt.”
You’d be hard pressed to find two more qualified instructors.
Derek Boogaard, also known as the Boogeyman, is coming off his second full season with Minnesota. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, he’s regarded by many as the most intimidating pugilist in the NHL. Aaron Boogaard, a 6-foot-3, 245-pounder, just completed his junior career with the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League and recently signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. During his time in Tri-City, he established himself as one of the most feared fighters in the WHL.
“It’s a greasy job,” he said, “but somebody has to do it.”
The debate on whether fighting belongs in hockey has gained momentum in recent years, but the Boogaards believe it will always have a place. In fact, they view fighting as a skill like any other, one that requires constant work and refinement.
“If everybody could be a 100-goal scorer, that’s what the whole league would be,” said Derek Boogaard. “You have your goal-scorers, you have your checkers and you have your physical players.”
By definition, physical players are required to be accountable for their actions — sometimes with the gloves off.
When it happens, you better be ready.
“There are a lot of aspects to [fighting], lots of strategies,” said Aaron Boogaard, 20. “[Derek] is big enough and has a long enough reach to grab anybody in the middle of their jersey and toss them around and stand back and throw. But smaller guys like me, fighting guys the same size, I have to be smart. I have to know where to grab. You have to do your research, too, and know who’s left [handed] and who’s right. It’s pretty strategic nowadays.
“Guys are getting bigger and stronger. You can get hurt.”
Therein lies the impetus behind the fighting camp, which is more about preventing injuries than causing them.