With the recent news that two people were arrested in relation to former Minnesota Wild play Derek Boogaard’s death brought me back to that day 3 years ago when I heard he had passed. Derek Boogaard… the Wild’s legendary fighter who would defend his teammate’s to no end. Many saw him as a ruthless fighter but in reality he was just a person.. like everyone else around him. He had feelings, family, friends and things he loved. He died due to an accidental overdose of painkillers he had for a concussion that was a result of a fight.
Many people misunderstood Boogaard and his name was dragged through the mud because of the way he died. He was not a druggie, yes he was participating in illegal activity which I DO NOT condone but he also was not alone in this act. He played hockey and he was what most would consider a fighter… he was tall and built so naturally he used those abilities to fight when the problem arose.. and yes he was good at it. He was a clean fighter and never used cheap shots. During one of these fights he received a concussion.. one so bad he needed to have prescribed painkillers like many other athletes these days. He however became addicted and went to rehab several times to try to kick the habit. Several of his teammate’s were aware and his team had his back along with the league.. to a point. The day he died.. he had been out of rehab one day according to reports and his brother had supplied him with the drugs he was trying to kick. He went out to have some fun and did not wake up the next day.
He did have prescriptions for the painkillers but then they ran out.. yet someone kept supplying him. He was in the wrong as much as them.. I’m not saying he was in the right at all.. but he is a human. Many people have addictions they hide from others and some try to get help and just can’t kick the habit. It’s hard.. very very very hard. Unfortunately for Boogaard he was in the public eye.. and his concussion kept him out of the game he loved to play. Was it his fault he was addicted? Yes.. he could make his own choices but who was helping monitor him to make sure he didn’t become addicted? These painkillers are very strong.. was there actually someone helping to make sure he did not become addicted or did they look the other way.. or was it no one’s fault but his own? It’s hard to say anyone is to blame… but it’s also hard to say no one is.
He was just a human being with a very human problem and one of my concerns was.. the NHL can be partially to blame. My reasons? They allow fighting.. fighting leads to concussions.. concussions lead to painkillers.. painkillers lead to addiction.. addiction can lead to death such as what happened to Boogaard. This is a very real problem in hockey and other sports where concussions occur. He was an adult and can make his own choices but who allowed him to have access to the drugs in the first place? Fighting in my opinion needs to be stopped before others die. The steps the NHL has taken to control the fights.. are a step in the right direction but there could be more done to protect the players. Hockey does not need to be controlled constantly but there should be considerations taken on behalf of the players and future players.
Many players believe that fighting holds the other accountable but there are other ways to control accountability. Hockey is called hockey for a reason.. if it was meant to be fighting.. it would be called fighting. Yes, Boogaard’s profession was a bruiser.. and he fought a lot which basically led to his death but if the NHL did not allow fighting.. would he still be alive today?
There are many unanswered questions in this case and in this world but the very unfortunate thing is… a life was lost. He wasn’t just a hockey player, he was a human being and he meant a lot to a lot of people. The one fortunate thing that did come out of his death is it highlighted the life of fighters in hockey and the damage that can come from it. I understand that to some fighting is an integral part of hockey.. but that was the past. Things have changed a lot since those days and I think the rules need to change as the sport has. Helmets and face-masks have been added over the years, the red line has been removed and the trapezoid for goalies added. Why can’t fighting be adjusted to make it safer since we are adding other things to make the sport safer? No.. we don’t need to baby the sport or make it seem constantly monitored but maybe some slight adjustments can save a life.
I believe the sport owes that to Boogaard and the many other players that have been affected by fighting because the NHL hasn’t decided what to do about it or to protect them. Yes, they are fighters and protect others but who is protecting them? They are humans too and deserve to play the game they love just like everyone else.