ST. PAUL, Minn. --- Relatives and fans of Derek Boogaard shed tears Sunday as they remembered the former NHL tough guy as a "teddy bear" who was as generous and kind as he was burly and tough, a somber end to a weekend during which his distraught family agreed to donate his brain to medical researchers.
The 28-year-old was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment Friday, five months after he sustained a season-ending concussion with the New York Rangers.
His agent and a spokeswoman for the Boston University School of Medicine confirmed Sunday that his brain will be examined for signs of a degenerative disease often found in athletes who sustain repeated hits to the head.
"It's an amazing thing he did and his family did. Hopefully, that'll bring some information," agent Ron Salcer said. "We don't know exactly the impact that the concussions might have played."
Salcer spent three days with Boogaard in Los Angeles earlier in the week. He remarked about his client's brightened demeanor after suffering through a winter of not being able to play or even be active while his head healed.
"He seemed very good, and that's what makes it more painful," Salcer said. "He was really starting to feel better about everything. He was in great shape."
Minneapolis police said there were no outward signs of trauma, but results of an autopsy are expected to take weeks. There is no known concussion connection to his death, but at Boogaard's wish his family signed papers to donate his brain. Salcer said Boogaard was approached by researchers from the center who had studied brains of other athletes who suffered many hits to the head.
Boogaard's parents and three siblings attended the memorial at Xcel Energy Center, where the enforcer became a fan favorite with the Minnesota Wild for his fighting prowess.
With a few hundred fans standing in the arena lobby, general manager Chuck Fletcher, former teammate Wes Walz and Boogaard's siblings took turns telling stories and reading tributes.
The memorial sprouted from a Facebook page urging fans to gather at the arena for a candlelight vigil.