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NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard’s family sues NHL, alleges ‘wrongful death’

MinnesotWild left winger Derek Boogaard warms up before facing Colorado Avalanche first period an NHL hockey game Denver Wednesday Dec.

Minnesota Wild left winger Derek Boogaard warms up before facing the Colorado Avalanche in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Denver on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Updated: June 14, 2013 6:29AM

The family of a famously combative hockey player who died from an accidental overdose of pain-killers and alcohol has sued the National Hockey League in Cook County Circuit Court.

The Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio announced Sunday that it filed the suit on behalf of the family of Derek Boogaard, who was 28 when he died two years ago after a six-year NHL career.

The family’s lawyers say the league “knew, or should have known” that Boogaard and players in his role — “enforcer/fighters” who specialize in fistfights during games — have an increased risk of brain damage.

The lawsuit also alleges that Boogaard was given huge quantities of pain pills by team doctors and that the league failed to treat him as promised after he became addicted.

An NHL spokesman declined to comment on the suit, saying the league’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, and other officials had not seen it.

The 55-page filing begins by noting that in Boogaard’s 277 games for the Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers, he scored just three goals but participated in 66 on-ice fights.

The lawyers go on to detail the copious medications that Boogaard was given to deal with dozens of injuries. During the 2008-09 season with the Wild, team doctors, dentists, trainers and staff wrote more than 40 prescriptions for a total of 1,021 pills, according to the suit.

“The NHL’s failure to prevent over-prescription of addictive medications to Derek Boogaard caused wrongful death,” the suit alleges.

The league then breached its duty to “curb, cure and monitor Derek Boogaard’s drug addiction,” the lawyers wrote, describing the player’s unsuccessful attempts at rehab.

Boogaard, who was 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 270 pounds, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy — advanced brain damage caused by all the blows he took to the head.

The same law firm that filed this suit is representing the family of the late Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson in a case brought last year against the National Football League. Duerson committed suicide in 2011. Like Boogaard, he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

In a statement Sunday, the lawyers for Boogaard’s survivors said they want the NHL to change its policies so that such tragedies do not recur with other NHL hard men.

“Fighting night after night took its expected toll on Derek’s body and mind,” attorney William T. Gibbs said. “He turned to the team doctors who dispensed pain pills like candy. Then, once he became addicted to these narcotics, the NHL promised his family that it would take care of him.”

The suit, which seeks a judgment “in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limit,” was filed Friday on behalf of Boogaard’s father, mother, three brothers and one sister.

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