Aaron Boogaard, former Pittsburgh Penguins farmhand, is a winger for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the CHL. Like his late brother Derek Boogaard, he's an enforcer: 109 penalty minutes in 46 games, compiled during 11 fights.
On Friday night, Boogaard again defended the honor of his teammates — only instead of an opposing player, his target was a photographer in a game against the Texas Brahmas.
Robert Keith runs Texas Brahmas Insider, a website that has covered the CHL team since 2008, including his own photo coverage. He was stationed between the benches on Friday night, and spent the game jawing with Bees forward Brady Leavold.
According to Brian Sandalow of The Monitor, Leavold "put his stick in front of Keith's lens to block his view" during the third period. Keith grabbed the stick; Boogaard saw this and then punched Keith on the top of his head twice, leading to a game misconduct.
Keith's reaction to being attacked by a player? Surprisingly measured.
Here's some video of the incident, although you can't make out much:
Keith, who didn't mention the incident in his game story, told the Monitor that he doesn't intend on filing any charges, adding:
"This is just unfortunate. I think Boogaard made a poor judgment choice. I shouldn't have been there, I shouldn't have chirped back," Keith said. "I kind of feel it was a self-defense thing. I just didn't want the stick hitting my camera. I didn't want it hitting me in the face. Maybe (Leavold) was just screwing around, tempers flare with stuff like that.
"I hold no grudge against Boogaard."
Sandalow's take on the incident: That Keith should have remained impartial during the game, but that "the onus falls on Boogaard." From Sandalow:
"Look, I get it. As an enforcer you want to protect your teammates. If that means jumping a guy during a game, fine. But the second you touch anybody not wearing the opposing team's jersey you lose any and all benefit of the doubt."
Caller-Times staff writer Greg Rajan, covering the CHL for more than a decade, agreed:
Boogaard punching Keith can't be tolerated by the CHL, as players in no way can attack fans or media. It's just a zero-tolerance area. I'm rather chagrined to read about Keith chirping Leavold during the game, because I don't think you should do that if you're there in a media role, which I consider a photographer between the benches taking pictures for a blog. I've covered games from behind the bench and inside the penalty box before, but never initiated any conversation with players or coaches. I was just there to observe, not participate.
That being said, there is no defense for what Boogaard allegedly did. The CHL must deal with him swiftly, and severely. You can't allow behavior like that in your league.
That said, Boogaard has been through a hellish last 365 days. Doesn't excuse behavior, but worth remembering.
It's difficult to pass judgment on Keith as a photojournalist without knowing the origins of the tension between himself and Leavold, or what was said. Sometimes things get heated. It's just that it's usually in the dressing room or the bowels of the arena rather than between the benches and during a game.
But as much as Boogaard is at fault for the assault, and as much as Keith needed to slow his roll before antagonizing an amped-up athlete during a game, there's also the fact that Bees coach Terry Ruskowski alerted the linesman during the game and nothing was done about it. (Keith said he'd shoot from the press box for the next game, against the Bees tonight.)
Blame, and ugliness, all around in this embarrassing moment for the CHL.