The summer of 2011 has not been a good one for the NHL. This summer three of the NHL's enforcers, or tough guys, have suddenly died. Derek Boogard in May, and Wade Belak, and Rick Rypien in August. Some ask if the deaths were related to the players being enforcers, but that has proved not to be the case.
Derek Boogard, or as he was well known, "The Boogeyman", died of an accidential overdose of alcohol and oxycodone. In December of last year, Boogard had a season ending concussion injury while playing for the Minnesota Wild. After that year, the New York Rangers had signed him for a 6.5 million dollar contract. Although Minessota had become his home, he was eager to go and play for the Rangers. While still in Minessota, Boogard had went to a bar the night of his death and returned very late after a night of drinking. Boogard had also been struggling off and on with pain killers since 2009, as a result of his shoulder surgery. That lethal combination proved to be fatal.
Suicide claimed the lives of two other hockey enforcers in August this year. Rick Rypien had been battling depression for 10 years, dating back to his days playing junior hockey. His girlfriend died in a car accident on her way to see him play, and his life changed forever. Periodically throughout his career, he would take a leave of absence to deal with an "undisclosed personal matter". He was found dead in his home 9 months after his last leave of absence. His suicide was shocking to everyone, considering the fact he was going to play for Winipeg Jets this season. Wade Belak died shortly after Rick Rypien. Belak had just retired from the NHL at the age of 35. He was found dead in a Toronto hotel room, his death was ruled a suicide but no more information has been released.
In my opinion, the NHL needs to stress the importance of the mental states of its players. This a huge problem that can be prevented with proper effort and awareness.