Matt Dumba (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Minnesota Wild blueliner Matt Dumba is set to change to No. 24 next season, but before he made the switch official, he got in touch with the family of former Wild fan favorite Derek Boogaard. Boogaard, who passed away in 2011, wore the number for five seasons in Minnesota.
For the past two seasons, Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba has proudly worn No. 55 for the Wild, but the club announced Monday he would be switching to No. 24, the number he had worn for much of his junior hockey career.
Usually, there isn’t much hullabaloo about a player switching jersey numbers – it happens on a yearly basis, yet rarely does it make headlines – but Dumba’s situation is made unique by the number he’s choosing to wear.
The No. 24 is synonymous in Minnesota Wild history with cult-star tough guy Derek Boogaard, who passed away suddenly in 2011 from an accidental overdose. Boogaard, one of the most fearsome fighters in the NHL during his playing days, was a fan favorite in Minnesota. As such, Dumba wanted to make sure it was all right for him to wear Boogaard’s former number.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo, Derek’s father, Len Boogaard, said Dumba contacted him this past week, asking if it would be all right to wear the No. 24 that Boogaard wore so proudly during his Wild days. Len gave Dumba the go-ahead, adding in his email to Russo that Dumba was a, “classy kid.”
The number became vacant this off-season when the Wild bought out Matt Cooke, who had one year remaining on a three-year, $7.5 million deal with Minnesota. Cooke, like Dumba, had also asked permission of the Boogaard’s to wear the number when he joined the club in 2013.
“I don’t really feel comfortable putting it on without his mum and dad’s blessing,” Cooke told Russo in July 2013. “I’ve sent emails off to them. I want to let them know that by putting it on I’m absolutely not doing anything disrespectful. It’s been my only number in the NHL, but at the end of the day, I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt. I don’t want anyone to think that I am being disrespectful and I want to make sure I take care of that before I even entertain the thought of putting it on.”
In an email to Russo following Cooke’s request, Ryan Boogaard, Derek’s brother, said he knew someone would eventually wear the number but that he, “was not expecting them to reach out to us. So when Matt did, I could not have been happier.”
Last season, Dumba set career highs with eight goals and 16 points in 58 games, and now, with the Boogaard’s blessing, the 21-year-old defenseman will look to improve on those totals in 2015-16 wearing No. 24.