Boy On Ice chronicles the hockey career of Derek Boogaard, an awkward, shy, marginally talented kid from Saskatchewan who, because of his strength and size, was drafted into the NHL as an enforcer. This role, the horrific injuries that accumulated during on-ice fights, and the negligence displayed by NHL staff, led to his self-medication with, and addiction to, prescription drugs. In 2011, a year after signing with the New York Rangers, Boogaard overdosed on a combination of drugs and alcohol – he was 28. His family was devastated and in 2013 filed a lawsuit against the NHL. Just last year, charges were laid in connection with Boogaard’s death.
The book uses Boogaard’s life story as a case study of what can commonly happen to enforcers in the NHL. Branch integrates interviews with family, former teammates and enforcers, as well as history about the role of fighting and violence in professional hockey that has made “the enforcer” a peculiar, misunderstood, dangerous and tragic role.
An essential read for hockey fans or anyone who views sports through a critical and complex lense.