Gaborik, Boogaard always captivating

Published Nov. 21, 2010 2:10 a.m. ET

By Jamie MacDonald

November 20, 2010

There has always been something captivating about Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard. In hockey, there are just a few elements that cause a fan to stir in his or her seat. Unfathomable speed is one of them. A king-of-the-mountain combination of size and willingness to rumble is another. "Oh, look, he's on the ice." It's palpable.

In front of the right crowd, a hockey crowd, the mere suggestion of these promises being realized begins with hints and whispers in the stands.

A player curling through the zone. The crowd noticing that the fastest player they see all year has a bead on the puck and open ice in front of him. A hum builds. "Am I about to witness something magical?" That player is going to snatch the puck, start pin-wheeling his skates and take off. He'll find a new gear with each step, somehow picking up speed while stickhandling. He captures more imagination with every stride.

If speed dazzles, the brute collision of wills and fists registers somewhere a little darker in the hockey fan. It triggers something harder to explain. If a fight broke out at bus stop, we might be appalled. At, say, the blue line, with gloves and sticks and bystanders nearby, we have the anticipation of violence to rev the engines. Combatants will collide, gloves will be dropped, fists will be raised, hammers dropped, and a crowd will heave with the tugs of arms or a landed right. In a game so defined by nuance and seeming randomness, a fight is about as clear and direct as it gets.

Marian Gaborik is flight. Derek Boogaard is fight.

Somewhere along the way the elements of contracts and injuries, contrived showdowns and one-dimensional usefulness muddy the translation of their relative appreciation in these parts, but Gaborik and Boogaard are the personification hockey