Rangers forward Boogaard's death ruled accidental
A medical examiner in Minnesota ruled the death of New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was an accident, due to mixing alcohol and oxycodone.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner released Boogaard's cause of death on Friday. The medical examiner said no other data will be released.
Oxycodone is a powerful painkiller that can be addictive and has been blamed in some overdose deaths.
The 28-year-old Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment last Friday, five months after he sustained a season-ending concussion with the Rangers.
A private service for friends and family of Boogaard, who was born in Saskatoon and grew up in Regina, will be held at the RCMP Depot Chapel in Regina on Saturday.
In a written statement Friday, Boogaard's family thanked people for their support and commented on the results of the toxicology report.
"After repeated courageous attempts at rehabilitation and with the full support of the New York Rangers, the NHLPA, and the NHL, Derek had been showing tremendous improvement but was ultimately unable to beat this opponent," the statement said. "While he played and lived with pain for many years, his passion for the game, his teammates, and his community work was unstoppable."
The six-foot-seven, 265-pound enforcer became a fan favourite in his years with the Minnesota Wild. He played in 255 games with the Wild from 2005-10.
Boogaard's agent and a spokeswoman for the Boston University School of Medicine said earlier this week that Boogaard's brain will be examined for signs of a degenerative disease often found in athletes who sustain repeated hits to the head.
Boogaard was known as "The Boogeyman" — one of the league's most feared fighters. He agreed to a $6.5-million US, four-year deal with the Rangers in July and appeared in 22 games last season, finishing with a goal, an assist and 45 penalty minutes.
His final game was Dec. 9 at Ottawa when he fought Matt Carkner and sustained a concussion and shoulder injury. That was the 70th fight of his NHL career.
He was out for the last 52 games of the regular season because of his injuries and did not play in the playoffs. He didn't skate again until about three months after the concussion. He was sent home to Minnesota late in the season to work on conditioning.
Boogaard was drafted by Minnesota in 2001 in the seventh round, the 202nd choice. He drew notice in 2007 when he and brother Aaron ran a hockey-fighting class in Saskatchewan. Some voiced concern about such a camp. Boogaard insisted he wasn't teaching kids how to hurt each other, but rather how to protect themselves so they don't get hurt on the ice.
This is the second death of a player in the Rangers organization in the past three years. Alexei Cherepanov, drafted in 2007 but never signed by New York, died at 19 in Chekhov, Russia, in 2008, after collapsing on the bench during a game.
Roman Lyashenko, who briefly played with the Rangers several years ago, was found dead in a hotel in Turkey in 2003. His death was believed to be a suicide.
Earlier this year, Boston University revealed that former enforcer Bob Probert suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Probert died of a heart attack last July at age 45. Reggie Fleming, a 1960s enforcer who played before helmets became mandatory, also had CTE.
Wild fans held a memorial service for Boogaard last Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center. Family, friends and former teammates turned out, and remembered Boogaard as a rough-and-tumble guy on the rink, but a gentle giant when he wasn't on the ice.
"He exuded this aura about him that made people want to be around him," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said Sunday. "He just brought smiles to everyone's faces all the time."
With files from CBCSports.ca