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Updated: May 20th, 2011 5:46pm
Derek Boogaard made 'courageous' rehab efforts before lethal overdose

Derek Boogaard made 'courageous' rehab efforts before lethal overdose

by Tom Pelissero
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Derek Boogaard's family opened up about his substance-abuse problems on Friday, shortly after the Hennepin County Medical Examiner revealed the NHL enforcer died a week ago from a lethal combination of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.

Boogaard was found dead last Friday in his Minneapolis apartment. The New York Post soon reported the 28-year-old was in the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health Program in the weeks prior to his death, but the medical examiner declined to speculate on cause of death before toxicity reports returned.

In a statement released through the Minnesota Wild, the family said Boogaard had made "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. While he played and lived with pain for many years, his passion for the game, his teammates, and his community work was unstoppable."

A fan favorite during his five seasons with the Wild, Boogaard signed a four-year, $6.5 million contract with the New York Rangers in July. He played in 22 games with the Rangers before suffering a season-ending concussion in a fight with Ottawa's Matt Carkner on Dec. 9.

"It is very comforting for our family to know that, while Derek's life was far too short, he had a great impact on many people who he came into contact with," the family's statement said. "We are proud that Derek was able to live his boyhood dream to play in the National Hockey League. We are even more proud of the fact that Derek was dedicated to making a difference in his adopted communities of Minnesota and New York City, through his countless hours of charitable work."

The statement finished with a request "for continued privacy as we grieve the loss of Derek."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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In this story: Derek Boogaard