Drugs In The NHL? The Boogard Story


A reader emailed me a link to a story that I had not seen before from the NY Times on Derek Boogard and drugs in the NHL, prescription drugs. It’s a fascinating read and much to the emailers point, a story that seems to be getting little attention in the traditional hockey media.

“In his final three seasons playing in the National Hockey League, before dying last year at 28 of an accidental overdose of narcotic painkillers and alcohol, Derek Boogaard received more than 100 prescriptions for thousands of pills from more than a dozen team doctors for the Minnesota Wild and the Rangers.”

Think about that, over 100 scripts in three years. I would think that for a sick person that would be a huge number, but for an athlete to be getting that number of scripts….wow.

“In a six-month stretch from October 2008 to April 2009, while playing 51 games, Boogaard received at least 25 prescriptions for the painkillers hydrocodone or oxycodone, a total of 622 pills, from 10 doctors — eight team doctors of the Wild, an oral surgeon in Minneapolis and a doctor for another N.H.L. team.”

Now, I’ve never been addicted to anything. I’ve never had to take those kinds of pain meds, but good lord, 25 scripts in 6 months, 9/10 doctors prescribing these meds were NHL team doctors. Good lord.

“The records paint an incomplete picture. They do not show what Boogaard told doctors or the degree to which he may have misled them. They do not indicate what the doctors knew, if anything, about Boogaard’s pursuit of drugs bought illicitly on his own. They do not reflect whether the doctors knew what other doctors were diagnosing or prescribing.”

Ok, I can buy that, but still the teams knew this guy was a mess and yet they still made it pretty damn easy for him to get more pills. With friends like that….

“None of the doctors mentioned in this article would comment. Neither would Dr. Brian Shaw or Dr. David Lewis, co-directors of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program that they founded in 1996 through the N.H.L. and its players association. They took on oversight of Boogaard’s care after he was placed in rehabilitation in 2009. Dr. Lewis is a psychiatrist on the staff of the Canyon, a rehabilitation center in Malibu, Calif. Dr. Shaw is a psychologist based in Toronto.”

There’s no surprise that the dr’s would talk. Whether balanced or not, this article is making them look not only silly but culpable for the guys death.

“He requested and received Derek’s medical records from the Wild. The Rangers initially refused, but Boogaard eventually received them through the players association. He asked for records from the private practices of team doctors, too, and received them from most.”

No why would the Rangers refuse? What would they have to hide I wonder…..

““Derek was an addict,” Len Boogaard said. “But why was he an addict? Everyone said he had ‘off-ice’ issues. No, it was hockey.”

Ouch, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the league around Stanley Cup time now is it.

“Len Boogaard has considered lawsuits. But he said that taking the N.H.L. and those with ties to it to court could take a financial and time commitment that he could not afford. He cited the example of Steve Moore, a Colorado Avalanche player attacked on the ice by Vancouver’s Todd Bertuzzi in 2004. A long-awaited trial is scheduled to begin later this year.

“It’s not the money,” Len Boogaard said. “But in eight years, how many more players are going to go through something like what Derek did?”

It’s a shame that a father has to feel that way. The bigger question is who in the league is going through something similar?

A great read in the Ny Times. Check it out here

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mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
June 7, 2012 4:30 am

nice find by the emailer. also glad to see the recent rise in sports media content here.

one request: perhaps consider finding some way to format the quotes and your observations differently so they stand in contrast to each other. it all runs together currently.

the main question with which i am left is why this story has not received serious attention north of the border. it was published June 4th and has garnered 185 comments at the NYT, yet a quick scan of the Canadian papers and blogs shows no commentary by the main hockey media in canada. Where are Brunt or Arthur or Cox? I just glanced at the guest list from PTS and Cybulski for the week thus far and the author has not been interviewed, nor have any of the relevant experts been on either show.

The only commentary I can find comes from Friedman, who offers some very cautious thoughts on his blog including this rather lame disclaimer:

“I don’t want to comment specifically on the article, because, with something like this, it’s dangerous to jump to conclusions when the teams, league and doctors decline to speak. “


June 7, 2012 8:09 am

Not surprising that it is like this, surprising that it took this long to show up.

You see stories like this all the time when professional wrestlers die before thier time, Chris Benoit being the prome example.

People that spend thier lives doing what are basically one night stands, living in hotels, jumping all over time zones playing a physical game; are going to need something to get through it. For some it gets to be too much. For those cases, maybe we have to look at the lifestyle

Mike S
Mike S
June 7, 2012 11:03 am

I am pretty sure I heard the author interviewed at least once this week…………..I can’t remember whether it was on 590 or 1050

I agree with Mike in Boston about the format of the quotes on this site…………I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what’s a quote and what is not……………..maybe TSM could put the quotes in bold or italics or some other format

June 7, 2012 1:05 pm

Well I get the New York Times delivered and it was smack dab right on the front page, where sports related stories never usually are. I think I still have it…

The headline is above the fold, “In Hockey Enforcer’s Descent, Easy Access to Prescriptions”. Can’t get any more clear than that. I’m sure some of these newsrooms get the NYT delivered, if they don’t have people living on the wire looking for hockey stories already. I tend to not be one of those conspiracy people when it comes to NHL coverage, but I have to agree that ignoring this almost seems intentional. I think the only reason that I can see to legitimately bury it so much right now is that I don’t know how you do it justice as a segment on a 30 minute clip show, let alone a Stanley Cup broadcast when neither of the teams involved are related to the story. I’m also not sure how much you can do without just retreading the same ground. By the sounds of the PTS interview with John Branch yesterday, it seems as though Len Boogaard has done most of the grunt work for the piece anyway by compiling all that information.

It’s certainly a fantastic piece of work though, and at the very least should be given a recommendation from more hockey people than it has been already.

June 7, 2012 2:34 pm

The author was on with Bob earlier in the week.

June 7, 2012 5:50 pm

This kind of thing is/was very proficient in wrestling. There is a term called “mark doctors,” who those people who wrote scripts constantly foe people.

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