The family of former NHL player Derek Boogaard, who died of an accidental overdose of pain medication and alcohol, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the NHL, blaming it for brain damage he suffered during his playing career and painkiller addiction.
Boogaard was found dead May 13, 2011, and was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain ailment that can be caused by repeated blows to the head, according to the 55-page lawsuit filed in Chicago on Friday.
“He was there protecting his teammates at all costs, but who was there to protect him?” Joanne Boogaard, Derek's mother, said in a statement release by her attorneys.
“Prior to and during Derek Boogaard's career, the NHL knew, or should have known, that the Enforcers/Fighters in the NHL had an increased risk of brain damage due to concussive and sub-concussive brain trauma and were particularly susceptible to addiction issues,” the lawsuit reads.
Boogaard was an enforcer during his career, whose main job was to deter dirty play by the opposition and to protect his team's best players.
Boogaard scored only three goals in 277 regular-season games but took part in at least 66 on-ice fights.
According to the lawsuit, Boogaard received 1,021 prescriptions from NHL team physicians, dentists, trainers and staff while playing for the Minnesota Wild during the 2008-09 season.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press in an email Sunday night that the league had not received the lawsuit and generally does not comment on pending litigation. The suit was filed in Illinois in part because the NHL has a business interest in the state through the Chicago Blackhawks and Boogaard “engaged in on-ice fights during his NHL career” in Chicago, the filing says.
Boogaard was under contract with the New York Rangers at the time of his death. He played his first five NHL seasons with the Minnesota Wild and one season with the Rangers after signing a four-year, $6.5 million contract with New York in July 2010. Boogaard, who was 28 when he died, sustained a concussion during his last game on Dec. 9, 2010.