Family of Derek Boogaard Asks Federal Judge to Remove Tort Claims to State Court

The parents of former NHL player Derek “Boogeyman” Boogaard are asking a Federal District Court judge to remove their wrongful death claims — against the NHL — to state court. Their request comes on the heels of a ruling striking all claims involving federal law, and, Boogaard’s parents opine, the only allegations left to decide involve state tort law claims. Filed in 2013, the suit focused on the NHL’s failure to protect Boogaard and permitted him to return to action without completing recovery for his opioid addiction.

Boogaard was known as an “enforcer” in the league — a player who protects other, more skilled players, when they are targeted by another team’s “enforcers.” In his brief NHL career, Boogaard played for the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers. His playing days were cut short when, after only 22 appearances with the Rangers, Boogard sustained a serious concussion during a fight in December 2010. Boogaard died in 2011 from an accidental overdose of alcohol and painkillers. An autopsy revealed that he struggled with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), commonly found in players like Boogaard, as well as many football players. While still in the NHL, Boogaard dealt with an addiction to opioid painkillers, and was required to complete mandatory drug rehabilitation by the league. Just prior to his death, Boogaard had emerged from another stint in league-mandated drug treatment, at age 28.

His parents allege the NHL knew of the risks posed to players like their son, but failed to warn of the dangers of repeated concussions to long-term health. Specifically, Boogaard’s parents argue that the NHL profited from a “culture of violence” without offering adequate protections, or even fair warning of the health risks posed by repeatedly fighting other players. The NHL currently faces several lawsuits stemming from concussion issues. Former Chicago Blackhawk enforcer Steve Montador, who died in February 2015, planned on suing the NHL before his death for failing to warn players of the severe risks of multiple concussions. After his death, Montador’s family sued the NHL when an examination of his brain revealed “extensive” signs of CTE.

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