By Stu Hackel
The horror that was Derek Boogaard’s painkiller addiction came into shaper focus earlier this month when John Branch of The New York Times followed up his stunning three-part exposé from last fall (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) with a story focusing on how easily the late Rangers enforcer was able to obtain prescription drugs. Branch’s latest piece was published the same day as Game 3 of the Kings-Devils Stanley Cup Final and, even though it was on The Times’ front page, it perhaps got less attention than it deserved in hockey circles.
Much of the reaction surrounding Branch’s original story about Boogaard was focused on fighting in the NHL and it raised the volume of those who oppose it. But the league has no plans to alter its position and the players continue to voice a nearly unanimous sentiment for keeping fighting in the game. However, painkiller addiction isn’t something that is defended by traditionalists, and its victims are likely a larger group than frequent fighters. Considering how contentious the fighting issue is, the painkiller problem may be more immediately fixable. Judging by Branch’s most recent piece, there’s a lot to fix. The most jarring aspect is the manner in which Boogaard obtained the various pills that ultimately led to his death, and not just from illicit providers, but from team doctors as well.