FENNO: Derek Boogaard lawsuit puts NHL on notice

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Descend into the 53 wrenching pages of the wrongful death lawsuit Derek Boogaard’s estate filed against the NHL late Friday and pill by pill, fight by fight, the reality becomes clear.

Case No. 13L3945 in Illinois’ Cook County Circuit Court delivered a transformational moment to the NHL with all the subtlety Boogaard used to smash opponents into the glass.

Boogaard’s lawsuit could be a potential game-changer,” said Paul Anderson, a Kansas City attorney who tracks concussion lawsuits at NFLConcussionLitigation.com. “It could have far-reaching implications not only to Boogaard’s case in particular, but to all NHL players generally. I think this could be the first step toward the next wave of the NHL concussion litigation.”

This is the league’s NFL moment, in the midst of the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup. That’s not a positive thing.

Already, the NFL is swamped by litigation in federal court from 4,336 former players, at last count, over head injuries sustained during their careers. That includes 33 Pro Football Hall of Famers. It’s a problem no public relations assault or rules changes or donation spree has been able to shake.

The NHL’s turn is here.

Boogaard died after an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2011. The hulking enforcer rolled up 589 penalty minutes and 66 fights (and just three goals) during his career. He later was diagnosed with the devastating neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy that’s associated with repetitive head trauma.

The lawsuit blames the NHL for Boogaard’s death and puts a price on hockey’s culture of enforcers and fighting. It’s not in dollars. It’s a man’s life.

The lawsuit called this a “preventable tragedy” and a “foreseeable combination of brain damage and addiction.”

The narrative isn’t surprising, after John Branch’s 2011 series “Punched Out” in The New York Times detailed Boogaard’s troubled life and death. That doesn’t make page after page in the lawsuit alleging untreated concussions and virtually unlimited prescriptions as his career unraveled any less disturbing.

That starts with the pills. Mind-boggling quantities of them prescribed by NHL-affiliated doctors and trainers. Tables are scattered throughout the lawsuit outlining the drug and quantity and date and reason, as Boogaard slipped into the addiction that took his life.

After Boogaard fractured a tooth, staffers wrote prescriptions for 432 pills of the narcotic pain reliever hydrocodone, which is used in Vicodin, in a month.

Another 16-day period saw 150 pills of Oxycodone prescribed.

He received 13 injections of Toradol, a drug that masks the body’s ability to feel pain.

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