CHICAGO — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by former NHL player Derek Boogaard’s parents, who blamed the league for their son’s brain damage and addiction to prescription painkillers.
Boogaard, a feared enforcer during six seasons with the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers, died of an accidental overdose of pain medications and alcohol in 2011. His parents later sued, arguing the NHL knew or should have known Boogaard — who they said received more than 1,000 prescriptions from team physicians, dentists, trainers and staff — wasn’t complying with treatment.
In a 20-page opinion dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman wrote that Boogaard’s parents didn’t prove the NHL was negligent. He also noted they weren’t appointed trustees of their son’s estate, a requirement to sue on its behalf.
But the judge was careful not to comment on the allegations against the NHL, which is currently involved in a class-action lawsuit involving more than 100 former players. Feinerman wrote that his decision “should not be read to commend how the NHL handled Boogaard’s particular circumstances — or the circumstances of other NHL players who over the years have suffered injuries from on-ice play.”
The attorney for Boogaard’s family, William Gibbs, did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press for comment. A spokesman for the NHL did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Boogaard spent five seasons with the Wild and one with the Rangers, scoring just three goals in 277 NHL games — while getting into at least 66 fights on his way to racking up 589 penalty minutes. He died while still under contract with the Rangers.
The 28-year-old was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain ailment that can be caused by repeated blows to the head.
The lawsuit alleged the NHL “cultivated a culture of gratuitous violence” that caused Boogaard to get into fights, which resulted in his CTE and addiction to opioids that ultimately caused his death.
In the suit, originally filed in 2013 in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Len and Joanne Boogaard alleged the NHL “knew, or should have known, that Derek Boogaard, a known drug addict, with probably brain damage due to concussive brain traumas sustained in NHL fights, was not complying with treatment (at a treatment center).”
A similar lawsuit was brought by the family of former Chicago Blackhawks player Steve Montador, who died in 2015. The lawsuit’s arguments mirror those made by scores of former professional football players against the NFL.