Report: Family of NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard sues league for son's death

Steve MacIntyre (33) of the Edmonton Oilers fighting with Derek Boogaard (94) of the New York Rangers during a hockey game at Madison Square Garden on November 14, 2010 in New York City. Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Derek Boogaard's family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Hockey League, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper reported the family claims in the lawsuit that the NHL is responsible for the brain damage that Boogaard sustained during six seasons as an enforcer in the league, and for his addiction to prescription painkillers.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press in an email Sunday night that league has not received the lawsuit and generally does not comment on pending litigation.

Boogaard was found dead of an accidental overdose of pain medication and alcohol on May 13, 2011. He was 28. He was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain ailment that is caused by repeated blows to the head.

The Times reports the suit was filed late Friday by the Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Steve MacIntyre fights with Derek Boogaard
Steve MacIntyre (33) of the Edmonton Oilers fights with the New York Rangers' enforcer Derek Boogaard (94) at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 14, 2010 in New York.
Getty Images/Paul Bereswill

"To distill this to one sentence," William Gibbs, attorney for the Boogaards, told The Times, "you take a young man, you subject him to trauma, you give him pills for that trauma, he becomes addicted to those pills, you promise to treat him for that addiction, and you fail."

Boogaard was under contract with the New York Rangers at the time of his death. He played his first five NHL seasons with the Minnesota Wild and one season with the Rangers after signing a four-year, $6.5 million contract with New York in July 2010.

Boogaard sustained a concussion during his last game on Dec. 9, 2010. Known as one of the league's toughest fighters, the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Boogaard played 277 NHL games, scored three goals and racked up 589 penalty minutes.

Boogaard's family filed a lawsuit against the NHL Players Association last September, seeking $9.8 million, but it was dismissed this spring. The family said the union, after expressing interest in helping pursue a case against the league, missed a deadline for filing a grievance. A judge ruled the family waited too long to act and dismissed the case.

The Times reports the family used a different lawyer in that case.

The Times reports the latest lawsuit details the treatment Boogaard received from team doctors of the Rangers and Minnesota Wild, and the officials from the league's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, which oversaw Boogaard's care after he entered rehabilitation while playing for the Wild in 2009.

CBSSports.com's Brian Stubits notes that this suit was filed by the same law firm that filed a suit against the NFL for former Bear Dave Duerson, which has since become part of a much bigger issue for the league.

"The NHL wouldn't like to go down the same road, but it could be on its way," Stubits writes.

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