Tuesday, May 17, 2011

on the media on Boogaard (slight return)

I'm loath to speak publicly about Derek Boogaard's death. My best guess is that it will prove to be self-inflicted, because in general 28-year-old professional athletes don't randomly drop dead. Is this wildly irresponsible speculation on my part? Of course it is. Is there a scenario you would like to suggest is actually more likely? Please feel free.

If we discover something like, in the worst case, a note in his own hand, reading "Ever since my last concussion I have been depressed and I do not wish to live any longer feeling this way", it will likely become very, very difficult for me to continue being a hockey consumer. An industry that depresses 28-year-old jocks to death is not an industry I can support in good conscience. However, this is a conclusion based on a whole chain of speculations, so let us not bum ourselves out prematurely.

It's been known for a couple days that Boogaard had been in the NHL/NHLPA's Behavioral Health/Substance Abuse Program at his time of death. (I found out about it from Larry Brooks. Decent review of what's currently known can be found here.) This program would seem to cover a lot of ground. Because I am who I am, I concluded--or maybe assumed--depression, and, naturally, imagined lots of connections between this and the brutally bad concussion that cost Boogaard 3/4 of the season.

But today, CBC's Elliotte Friedman drops this:
I'll take whatever criticism I get for not jumping to conclusions on the cause of Boogaard's death. Yes, he had concussion problems. Yes, he was battling some substance issues. But, we don't know if either was the reason. What's wrong with waiting to find out for sure?

What I want to know is whether Friedman is revealing something none of us knew yet--i.e., it was a specifically substance-related issue/program--or just assuming the way I did, but skewing the other direction. Friedman is about as inside as inside gets--short of Bob McKenzie, anyways--so it's at least likely he knows something others don't. So maybe it wasn't depression, and so maybe my ability to follow the NHL will live on.

(I'm leaving alone the muddy and manifold connections between depression and substance abuse. What can I tell you? I'm just trying to give my hockey fandom a puncher's chance of surviving these difficult times.)

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