Matt Carkner says it will be business as usual when he returns to National Hockey League game action Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.
He will try to make sound, basic plays in his own end to shore up the Senators defence. He will aim to keep Canucks players from gaining space in front of goaltender Craig Anderson. And if the time and situation calls for it, he will drop his gloves and fight to protect a teammate or to signal that opponents can’t intimidate the Senators at Scotiabank Place.
Carkner insists he won’t be thinking about the late Derek Boogaard, even though an unfortunate anniversary arrived on Friday.
On Dec. 9, 2010, Carkner and Boogaard, two of the NHL’s biggest players and most intimidating fighters, fought at Scotiabank Place during the Rangers’ 5-3 victory. Carkner landed a a big punch and Boogaard suffered a broken orbital bone and a concussion.
It was the last fight and game of Boogaard’s career. He never returned to action. During the summer, Boogaard died, following an accidental overdose of alcohol and drugs.
Earlier this week, a comprehensive series of multi-media stories by the New York Times revealed some chilling information. Doctors studying Boogaard’s brain discovered that the Rangers tough guy had suffered severe brain damage, similar to that found in Alzheimer’s patients, believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.
In the days following Boogaard’s death, Carkner said he felt horrible for the Boogaard family, but he has always chosen his words carefully on the topic.
“That’s not really an issue,” Carkner said, when asked about the fight.
“I don’t really want to say anything about it. It’s sad that (he died), but I don’t think the fight was anything to do with that. It’s other things (substance abuse) outside of the game of hockey that he was fighting. It’s sad to see that happen, but a lot of people do have troubles with that, so hopefully that raises awareness for that kind of thing.”
While the New York Times reports have shined an even brighter light on the always controversial topic of fighting in hockey, Carkner has already revealed that he won’t change his style.
During a three-game re-conditioning stint with Binghamton of the American Hockey League – he’s recovering from right knee surgery on Oct. 2 – he fought Kris Newbury of the Connecticut Whale.
“Did I have to (fight) down there? No, I was kind of just seeing how the knee would respond in a fight and a guy took a liberty on one of our players and hit him and it’s just hockey. That’s what I do. It’s kind of natural and the guy dropped his gloves.”
Naturally, it’s a touchy subject around NHL dressing rooms. New York Rangers players have been instructed not to talk to the media about the New York Times reports. After the stories first came out, Zenon Konopka, another Senators tough guy, says players who do his job are aware of the dangers.
“We know it’s a dangerous game,” said Konopka, who suggests there needs to be more research. “It’s part of the package you sign up for.”