- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - It may be weeks before authorities know exactly how and why New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died, although foul play was not immediately suspected.

The 28-year-old player was found dead Friday in his Minneapolis apartment. Few details were available, but the news rippled across the NHL, where the 6-foot-7 Boogaard was a fan favorite and one of the game’s most feared fighters. He missed most of last season because of a concussion and shoulder injury from a fight.

“I don’t think we have any answers as to what happened or why it happened,” Ron Salcer, Boogaard’s agent, said Saturday.

Authorities received a report of a man not breathing shortly before 6:15 p.m. Friday, Minneapolis police Sgt. William Palmer said. Minneapolis fire officials were the first to arrive and determined he was dead.

Palmer said authorities do not suspect foul play at this point, but the police department’s homicide unit and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating. Palmer said the medical examiner will decide the cause of death.

An autopsy was being conducted Saturday, but county spokeswoman Carol Allis said results probably will not be released for at least two weeks.

She said in cases with no obvious signs of physical trauma or an obvious immediate cause of death, it takes time to receive results of laboratory tests. Allis said the medical examiner’s office doesn’t anticipate releasing preliminary autopsy findings until all results are in.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on its website Saturday night that Boogaard’s family has agreed to donate his brain to Boston University researchers who are studying brain disease in athletes.

Findings released earlier this year by Boston University revealed that former enforcer Bob Probert suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Probert died of a heart attack last July at age 45. Reggie Fleming, a 1960s enforcer who played before helmets became mandatory, also had CTE.

A moment of silence was observed for Boogaard in Boston before the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Bruins 5-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“The news that we have lost someone so young and so strong leaves everyone in the National Hockey League stunned and saddened,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The NHL family sends its deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Derek Boogaard, to those who played and worked with him and to everyone who enjoyed watching him compete.”

Marian Gaborik was Boogaard’s teammate on both the Rangers and the Minnesota Wild, and benefited greatly by the protection the hulking forward provided for him as he fueled the offense.

“It was devastating news,” Gaborik said from Slovakia. “I played with Boogey for a long time in Minny and then in New York. He was a great guy. We got along together great. We helped each other out on the ice and off the ice. We were very close. I tried to help him along in New York, and we had a very good relationship. It’s just very sad.”

“He was one of the very best at what he did. Every team would have loved to have him, whether on the ice or off the ice as a great teammate.”

Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Boogaard was “always joking and having fun.”

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