When it was announced last summer that Derek Boogaard has passed away, it was shocking news. Here was a mountain of a man at 6’7″ and 270 lbs who made it into the NHL as a fighter and enforcer. While recovering from a second concussion in the same season, he accidentally overdosed on prescription medications combined with alcohol.
A review of his life and the deaths that quickly followed of fellow enforcers Rick Rypien and Wade Belak forced the NHL to look at how it handles concussions. All three were fighters, suffering numerous concussions over their careers. All dealt with the pain from being punched in the face. Some used pain pills, some chose alcohol. Some both.
Here you have an enforcer as Paul Bissonnette discussed it last season. You have practice in the morning, hoping you are going to play and not be a healthy scratch. You find out that you are in the line-up and are expected to drop the gloves. You immediately start to think about it. Fighting is one thing. Having to plan for it is another (At 8:15, I expect to get a big right hand in the cheek, followed by a left 1 second later).
You have a post game meal and head to your apartment or hotel room for a nap. Instead of getting body healing sleep, you start the mentally imagery of your upcoming fight. Will it be off a face-off? Will we drop in the first few shifts, or do I have to wait until the third period? What if the game gets out of hand and I don’t get back on the ice after a couple of shifts? Am I doing this for nothing? Your body is sore, so you take a pain medication. Sleep comes, but sleep from these meds is not restorative. You drag to the arena, get warmed up and dressed, waiting for the Pain Train. You fight, get the crowd in the game. You have done your job. The boys on the bench let you know they appreciate you, but you have to deal with the aches. They have their own.
You are playing at home, so after the game, it is a quick night on the town. Dinner with a few of the fellows, then a couple of drinks with single ones. Practice is early tomorrow morning as you are flying out after practice. Those drinks help take away some of the pain. Back at your apartment, you know you need to fall asleep as fast as possible. But your face is pounding. Another pain medication, maybe a sleeper. Off to sleep you go as morning comes quickly.
Another pain pill to get through practice. You can sleep it off on the flight. With some headphones and good music, a couple of drinks, you’ll land in another city. Where you repeat the process. And then a worse problems arises. You are not playing.
You haven’t played in a game in over the month. You start to question your skills. You work hard in practice, make all the right plays in the game, but no extra playing time. Long stretches in the press box. After a few games, you doubt yourself. Worry becomes anxiety. The only thing that can break this cycle is some ice time, but that is not coming as you just found out you are being held out again. You go talk to the trainer, the team doctor, anyone who will listen. You’re given something for the anxiety. It gets mixed in with the pain meds and the sleeper, and washed down with some alcohol. I’ll get it under control tomorrow.
Boogaard’s death showed that he had multiple doctors prescribing these types of medications and more. When Derek was away from the ice due to his concussion residual symptoms, depression was assumed to set in. You go for treatment and what do you get? More medication.
Early in his career with Regina of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, he declined his first fight offer. As punishment, he was demoted. It soon be apparent that if was to make it to the next level, it will be through fighting. You will fight often and back down to no one. And the damage that will be done physicialy and mentally will be something that you will have to learn to live with.
The NHL has improved their knowledge of diagnosing and treating concussion. Equipment is being discussed and evaluated for its role. Do we take the hard plactic caps off the should pads and elbow pads. Put cages on all helmets to discourage fighting. Or take off the visors and see if sticks really will stay down.
The next discussion that will have to take place is the pain and sleep medication. Lou Lamoriello of the NJ Devils has said the next thing he was to tackle are sleeping medications. The Vancouver Canucks have as a team policy a practice that must provide 8 hours of sleep for their players. Game ends at 9:30, see you at the rink no earlier than 10:00 the next day. Add in time to shower, eat, and go to sleep, you get 12 hours post game.
The story of Derek Boogaard is taken from Fox Sports, which references TMZ is presented below. This needs to be addressed so we don’t lose any more Wade Belaks or Rick Rypiens. Or Derek Boogaards.
The news that the family of Derek Boogaard is suing the NHLPA was unexpected
The NHL Players’ Association says it hasn’t seen a lawsuit reportedly filed by the parents of late enforcer Derek Boogaard seeking $9.8 million from the union.
TMZ reported Friday night that Boogaard’s family is suing the union to collect the $4.8 million remaining on the contract for their son, who died last year, and an additional $5 million in punitive damages. According to TMZ, the suit says the players’ association failed to take proper steps to help them receive the money left on Boogaard’s deal with the New York Rangers when he died May 13, 2011, from a mixture of drugs and alcohol.
”We are saddened to read reports that the parents of the late Derek Boogaard have filed a lawsuit against the NHLPA,” the union said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. ”We have not been served with or seen a copy of the complaint, but we are confident that there is no meritorious claim that can be made against the NHLPA in regard to Derek’s tragic death.
”It is not appropriate to comment further at this time.”
Boogaard’s parents claim the 28-year-old player was addicted to prescription pills at the time of his death, TMZ said, partly because he had been prescribed ”a multitude of narcotics and sleeping pills by both the team doctors, physicians, trainers, and dentists of the New York Rangers and theMinnesota Wild.”
Because they believe the clubs are partly responsible for Boogaard’s death, his parents went to the players’ association, which according to the report promised to help them file a grievance to get the Rangers to pay out what was left on the contract with the team.
According to the lawsuit, the NHLPA failed to file the grievance by the required deadline, leaving the Boogaards unable to collect the remainder of the money, TMZ reported.