Derek Boogaard, an NHL left-winger who played for the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild during his career, passed away last year after accidentally taking a fatal combination of oxycodone and alcohol. Boogaard was one of three NHL players that year to die as a result of prescription drugs and/or mental health issues.
After the quick chain of deaths, the NHL said that they would review their behavioral health and substance abuse programs. This was not enough for Boogard’s father, Len, who has been a member of the Canadian Mounted Police for three decades. Len demanded answers and was shocked to find how easily addictive prescription drugs were handed out to his son by team doctors and dentists. After working tirelessly over the last year to obtain documents that would help him piece together what happened to his son, Len discovered that, in all, Derek was given more than 100 prescriptions for painkillers amounting to thousands of addictive pills.
Boogaard’s Father Feels the Ease of Access to Prescription Drugs Fueled His Addiction
After an exhaustive search through Derek’s records, Len found that in the six-month period between fall 2008 and spring 2009 his son received 25 prescriptions for the highly addictive pain medications hydrocodone and oxycodone. This amounted to an astounding 622 pills prescribed by a combination of the 10 team doctors who were responsible for team members’ prescriptions. Were these physicians unaware of what the others were prescribing? Do they deal with pain so often that they became numb to the dangers of overprescribing such potent drugs? The answers are not clear.
Team Doctors Were Made Aware of Boogaard’s History of Substance Abuse
None of the documents amassed by Len Boogaard show exactly what any of the doctors knew. They do not have any notation that would describe the possibility of Derek attempting to mislead them, and there is no evidence that demonstrates how much the doctors knew about what any of the others had been prescribing him. This lack of communication may be at the epicenter of this case.
Nevertheless, according to Len, there is plenty of evidence that physicians for both the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild gave Derek addictive prescriptions after he finished the NHL’s substance abuse program in 2009. Dentists and doctors were allegedly fully aware of Derek’s struggles with addiction yet prescribed him hydrocodone and Ambien anyway. Even stranger is that Derek could receive these potent prescriptions just by sending a text message and the doctors never had to make note of it in his team medical file.
So far, neither the doctors nor the NHL have agreed to discuss the case with the media. So for now, Len’s side of the story is the sole source of information.
If Len is correct about how his son succumbed to addiction, what changes do you think need to be made in the NHL to protect players from addiction? Leave a comment and let us know your ideas below.