The family of professional hockey player Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the National Hockey League, claiming the organization is to blame for his brain damage and the addiction that played a role in his 2011 death from an overdose of alcohol and painkillers.
Boogaard played for the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers over the course of six NHL seasons, and was widely considered an “enforcer”-type player who would aggressively protect teammates and strong-arm opponents. For NHL enforcers, fights are practically part of the job description, and according to the lawsuit, Boogaard engaged in at least 66 fights on the ice, leading to numerous concussions and other injuries. A postumous medical examination revealed that Boogaard suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can be caused by repeated head trauma.
The complaint tries to put liability for Boogaard’s death on the shoulders of the NHL by arguing that team doctors and dentists prescribed oxcodone and other powerful drugs to Boogaard — more than 1,000 pills in the course of the 2008-09 season alone, according to the lawsuit — and then didn’t do nearly enough to help him with his ensuing addiction and health complications.
The Chicago Tribune quotes William T. Gibbs, an attorney representing Boogaard’s family, opining on the league’s culpability: “The NHL drafted Derek Boogaard because it wanted his massive body to fight in order to enhance ratings, earnings and exposure. Fighting night after night took its expected toll on Derek’s body and mind. To deal with the pain, he turned to the team doctors who dispensed pain pills like candy. Then, once he became addicted to these narcotics, the NHL promised his family that it would take care of him. It failed. He died. Today, his family seeks justice for the NHL’s egregious failures.”
Learn more about Wrongful Death Claims.