Hockey's Toughest Star Iced by Oxy and Alcohol

By ________________________ 05/23/11

Renowned as one of the toughest players in the National Hockey League, Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died Friday of an accidental overdose. He was 28.

Derek Boogaard, the enforcer, dead at 28.
Photo via puicet

Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers, widely renowned as one of the toughest fighters in the National Hockey League, died Friday in Minneapolis of a drug overdose. He was 28. The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office issued a statement saying that his death was acaused by “mixed alcohol and oxycodone toxicity.”

Everyone knows that hockey is a dangerous sport. That’s part of its appeal. Die-hard hockey fans cheer for fights as much as they cheer for cheers for goals. In fact, violence is expected and encouraged in a  a game played by a hearty breed of contact players and ice enforcers. But while the 6'7" 265-pound hockey star was renowned as one of the sport's most fearless fighters, he was ultimately brought down by a deadly combination of oxy and alcohol. After his shocking demise, the N.H.L issued a bland statement mourning the loss of a promising star who apparently loved visiting children's hospitals in his spare time. Since then, most commentators have focused on the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive and degenerative brain condition that is caused by frequent concussions.  Others issued screeds against prescription pills. But despite the coroner's report, few have discussed the role that alcohol played in Boogaard's death, even though it was a combination of Oxycontin and booze that did him in.  Somehow, alcohol continues to get a free pass in the sports world. It’s as if we have just come to expect young, strapping lads to get wasted, even when they are on heavy-duty prescription medication.

What is the N.H.L.’s policy on alcohol, anyway? Fellow players frequently commented on Boogaard's penchant for booze. Was he ever screened for alcoholism? Does the league offer it's players any medical support when they are put on powerful pain medications? While he may or may not have been an alcoholic, his willingness to risk the complications of drinking while on Oxy is telling. Boogaard may have been a terror in the rink, but despite his imposing lumberjack appearance, he was also the kind of guy who bothered to give sick kids the thrill of talking to a professional hockey player. Maybe there was a highly sensitive young man who had issues with drinking before his traumatic head injuries led him to OxyContin. In the alcohol-fueled world of professional sports, will this issue ever be seriously discussed?

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