Derek Boogaard would have been starting his second season in New York on Friday, but he passed away on May 13 -- the first of far too many tragedies during the past few months that sent the hockey world into mourning.
"You have your thoughts about it," coach John Tortorella said, "but you mourn, you grieve and you have to move along with your life and get about your business -- never forgetting, but also trying to conduct yourself each day."
Captain Ryan Callahan indicated that some of the players were talking Friday about Boogaard.
"It's tough. It's a big hole. To lose a teammate, there is not really a feeling like it," Callahan said. "I think we all have each other's backs and support each other. Throughout the summer we talked with each other quite a bit about it. We're always going to remember him."
"He was a big presence. He was a big boy, and he was well liked in our dressing room. We all miss him. We've been talking about him. I definitely liked him on my team. He was a great teammate. We're going to miss him."
-- Brandon Prust
He was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment on May 13, a victim of an accidental yet toxic mixture of alcohol and oxycodone. Boogaard was 28 years old.
"He was a big presence," said forward Brandon Prust, who was Boogaard's road roommate until the enforcer suffered the concussion. "He was a big boy, and he was well liked in our dressing room. We all miss him. We've been talking about him. I definitely liked him on my team. He was a great teammate. We're going to miss him."
"I enjoyed getting to know him throughout last year," added defenseman Marc Staal. "Obviously he's not going to be forgotten with us."
The Rangers reportedly will remember Boogaard by wearing a helmet decal in his honor this season. Prust said he plans to honor Boogaard every game.
"I'm always thinking about Derek," Prust said. "I hope he's out there with me every game."
Marian Gaborik, who played with Boogaard for four seasons in Minnesota before they got together again in New York last season, was not present on the first day of training camp. Gaborik was in Slovakia on Thursday burying another former teammate and close friend, Pavol Demitra, who was one of 44 victims in the plane crash that wiped out the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team on Sept. 7.
Tortorella said he's had several conversations with Gaborik this summer to gauge his state of mind.
"He'll be OK. He'll be OK," Tortorella said. "Everybody grieves losses of people and it's been hard for a lot of people, but I believe Gabby will be OK.
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