Derek Boogaard Was Prescribed Thousands of Pills

By Adam K. Raymond 06/04/12

The late NHL enforcer left behind a paper trail detailing the thousands of pills he was prescribed, his father reveals.

The New York Rangers' enforcer. Photo via

When former NHL tough guy Derek Boogaard died of an accidental overdose in May 2011, aged 28, he left behind a stellar career, a fledgling fight school in Saskatchewan and an astonishing paper trail detailing the thousands of pills he was prescribed by over a dozen doctors in a three year period. Boogaard’s father recently shared those records with the New York Times, which was struck by the ease with which Boogaard received pills, even "the narcotic painkillers and sleeping pills, which Boogaard had a history of abusing." Often it would just take a text message to a team doctor. Frequently the prescription was not recorded in his medical files. And when Boogaard couldn't cop from doctors he had other, more illicit sources.

Len Boogaard's mission to learn everything about what was ailing his son turned him into the Sherlock Holmes of hockey dads. He obtained everything from pharmacy records and medical files to bank statements and phone records, all in an attempt to piece together the puzzle of his son's addiction. What he found was that Boogaard was healthy for three years of his NHL career, until he lost a tooth in a fight in October, 2008. That led to a 33-day stretch during which Boogaard received 195 hydrocodonce pills from six doctors. In another 26-day period four doctors prescribed 150 oxycodone and 70 hydrocodone pills. The next three years of Boogaard's life were awash in alcohol and pills, obtained legally and otherwise. Both teams Boogaard played for in his six-year career—the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild—defended their doctors to the Times, insisting they operated responsibly. Len Boogaard disagrees and hopes something will change for those who come after his son. For now he's left to wonder, "How many more players are going to go through something like what Derek did?” 

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Adam K. Raymond covers politics and sports for New York Magazine. Visit Adam's website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.