NEW YORK — A New York Rangers player who died in 2011 of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers and a minor league hockey player who supplied him with pills are victims of organized sports and its lax attitude toward painkillers, a judge said Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald commented as she spared Jordan Hart, a former player for the Utah Grizzlies, any prison time at sentencing on his guilty plea to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.
Prosecutors had accused the 33-year-old Hart of contributing to the addiction of Derek Boogaard before he died in Minneapolis. Boogaard, who also played for the Minnesota Wild, had resorted to painkillers to cope with numerous hockey-related injuries, including a concussion.
The judge, though, said there was “no basis” to assert that Hart supplied the drugs that killed Boogaard, especially since the autopsy revealed Boogaard had taken a different painkiller than the kind he got from Hart.
Hart cried as he read a statement, saying he wanted to apologize to all parties.
“I am not proud of what’s taken place in the past,” he said, adding that he has become a better man and would never commit another crime.
Before announcing her sentence of a year of probation, Buchwald said: “This is obviously a very sad case.”
“Mr. Boogaard and Mr. Hart were victims of organized sports, which did not consider the consequences of supplying large quantities of addictive pain medication to their players,” Buchwald said.
Hart was receiving prescription painkillers for a shoulder injury when he met Boogaard, who had hockey-related injuries of his own. Both were addicted to painkillers.
Prior to the sentencing, Boogaard’s father, Len, wrote to the judge, saying he wanted Hart to be held responsible for his son’s death. He said his son’s banking records show large cash withdrawals that coincide with phone calls and trips to see Hart.
He said he objected to claims by Hart’s defense attorneys that he did not blame Hart for his son’s death, calling the assertion a “vile distortion of the truth.”