Lawsuit Could Change NHL

Fighting has been an integral part of the game since it was first invented. Fighting kept other players honest and sent messages to other teams that they aren’t to be trifled with. However, a new lawsuit could lead to fighting becoming illegal in the National Hockey League.

According to ESPN, A Chicago law firm has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on the behalf of the family of Derek Boogaard. Boogaard died on May 13th, 2011 from an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and alcohol. Boogaard was only 28-years-old at the time of his death.

The family contributes Boogaard’s addiction directly to the fighting as the left winger was the enforcer for the Minnesota Wild and then the New York Rangers. According to the Boogaard’s attorney William Gibbs of Corboy and Demetrio, this role precipitated his addiction as the fighting took a toll on his body.

“Regarding the toll that it takes on his body, team doctors prescribe amazing amounts of prescription pain pills that they know are highly addictive,” Gibbs said. “He becomes addicted and when the family then expresses concern about his addiction, the NHL says to them, ‘We will take care of this, we’ve got the best system to deal with this.’ And as we can tell, that system didn’t work.”

The evidence of this comes from the total amount of prescriptions that were written to Boogaard.

During the 2008-2009 Wild doctors wrote him 40 prescriptions for a total of 1,201 pills. Then in 2010-2011 with the New York Rangers he was written 17 prescriptions for a total of 366 pills. In addition Boogaard received 13 injections of Toradol, which is a drug that blocks the body’s ability to feel pain.

Boogaard was admitted into rehabilitation for his addiction prior to the 2009-2010 regular season. This caused him to miss the first five games. Even though relapsed and was subsequently caught, Boogaard was never enrolled into stage two or three of the NHL program.

“Instead of having something with meat to it, the league just kinda turned a blind eye to the relapse and gave, I think, him a false sense of feeling that this addiction was not a big deal when in fact it was a very, very big deal,” Gibbs said.

What this case highlights is the fact that the NHL has an administration problem. They institute new rules, but never follow through on them.

For example, the NHL was one of the first teams to institute baseline testing and guidelines for teams to follow when a player suffers a concussion. However, the NHL left it up to each individual league.

The lawsuit will most likely will land the NHL in front of congress for a hearing. Congress held congressional hearing after the National Football League concussion issues came to light. So, don’t be surprised when the NHL offers up fighting as the sacrificial lamb to keep congress and the media off their backs.

Written By: Paul Kasprzak
Sources ESPN, New York Times

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