Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review of "Boy On Ice"

As a fan of the Minnesota Wild, I was familiar with Derek Boogaard and the popularity he achieved in Minnesota while serving as the team's enforcer for a number of seasons.  When he left to sign with the New York Rangers, I also thought I would get to see more of him as I live in the Rangers' market.  But sadly, that never happened with his untimely death in 2011.  So naturally I was interested in reading this book and I am certainly glad that I did.  Here is my review of "Boy On Ice."

“Boy On Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard” by John Branch

Ice hockey, biography, professional, Wild, Rangers, death

Publish date:
September 29, 2014

385 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

When Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment in May 2011, I was shocked.  He was a player that I followed as a fan of the Minnesota Wild, his first team, and then as a member of the New York Rangers, since I live in Rangers territory.  My first thought was he was another athlete who succumbed to the good life and lived it too well.  But then when the true cause of his death was disclosed, it was an even bigger shock.

Given that premise, I was very interested to read this book by John Branch to see what really happened to Boogaard and what type of life he led. This was not the typical biography of an athlete, something that Branch states in the book. While it does cover the entire spectrum of Boogaard’s life, it reads much like a novel in which you root for the main character but you just have this sinking feeling that in the end, something bad is going to happen.

Two topics that are hot items in sports and the news today, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and addiction to pain killers, are discussed at length in the book, as it was shown that Boogaard was suffering from both. Branch did extensive research to illustrate how much Boogaard was willing to spend and to travel in order to obtain prescriptions for pain killers and sleeping pills. It made for fascinating reading and makes the reader both feel sorry for Boogaard and also angry in why he was not following his rehabilitation treatment and listening to those close to him about this problem.

The book also explores the life of a hockey enforcer and what these players go through in order to catch on with professional teams. Branch portrays not only Boogaard, but all players who are this type of specialist, as insecure and always wondering if that next fight that is lost or that next shift that is missed will cost the player his job. There are many facets to this type of player such as the constant hand injuries and the secret codes they speak to one another about when to fight. I also enjoyed reading about life in the Canadian junior leagues, a path many young Canadian players take to achieve their dream of playing in the NHL. If the reader is unfamiliar with these leagues and the lifestyle of these players, the book does a wonderful job of portraying this life.

Hockey fans should read this book for not only a description of the ups and downs of Derek’s life but also for the insight into the life of the enforcer. There will be many surprises to be found if one believes that person is merely the tough guy for his team.  An excellent book that I enjoyed very much.

Pace of the book:
It was a fast paced book that will grab the reader’s attention right away and will not let go. Each segment of Boogaard’s life was covered by excellent writing.

Do I recommend? 
Not only will hockey fans enjoy this book, but anyone who is interested in the effects of CTE or the addiction to pain killers will want to read this book as well.

Book Format Read:

Buying links:


  1. It's good to know that you really enjoyed this book. I have to confess that I started it, but found it so depressing, that I didn't finish it. I'm not a huge fan of fighting in hockey, and seeing Boogaard forced to fight to succeed was very sad. I can remember local hockey commentators mocking his lack of skating skills when he came to Vancouver, but obviously there was a much deeper story. Your enthusiasm makes me think I should take another look at the book.

    1. You shows how complicated his life on and off the ice got. Thanks for commenting.