Derek Boogaard

And just like that the impending start to the conference finals no longer matters.

Team Canada was knocked out of the IIHF World Hockey Championship and no one remembers because of the tragic news from last night of the passing of tough guy Derek Boogaard.

It is one of those moments in sport where teams don’t matter, series are unimportant, rivalries are set aside and everyone takes a collective step back to understand the situation and ask the same question:

What happened?

For right now all anyone can do is talk about the man Boogaard was, active in charities, a fan favorite and a great teammate. That is what the conversation should be about. How great an individual he was (or seemed to those of us who only saw him on TV a few times a year), how young he was and how tragic his sudden death was.

Too bad the conversation has strayed. A quick glance at theNHLTwittersphere shows how willing the two extreme ends of the fighting debate have already started to exploit.

On the anti-fighting side you have high profile critics like Damien Cox from the Toronto Star stating how fisticuffs led to Boogaard missing a significant portion of this season while not so subtly hinting his belief that it caused the tragedy.

While the pro-fighting readers respond, in some cases, with boneheaded comments or personal attacks.

This leads to Cox hypocritically scolding those who had the nerve to broach the subject before the cause of death was determined. (Apparently unaware he started this particular conversation.)

No matter which side of the debate you are on does not matter at a time like this. Leave it for another time. Even when the results come in it won’t matter. For now let’s show respect for the Boogaard family and reflect of the career of a player once considered to be among the toughest in the Western Conference if not the league. Let’s not cheapen his death by using it as ammunition in a polarizing debate. Maybe down the road it can be looked back on and discussed, but right now is not the time.

This isn’t simply more fuel for a fiery debate; it is a sudden and shocking death and Boogaard should be treated with the highest respect.

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