Former NHL player Jimmy Hayes had fentanyl and cocaine in his system when he died this past August, his family revealed in an interview with The Boston Globe.
In the interview, Hayes' widow Kristen and father Kevin say they hope that sharing their family's experience will help others avoid a similar tragedy.
"I hope getting Jimmy’s story out there can save someone’s life," Kevin Hayes said. "If this can save someone from the pain, great. It’s just so sad."
Jimmy Hayes, 31, was found unresponsive in his home outside Boston on Aug. 23. The six-foot-five power forward played with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils over his seven-year NHL career. His younger brother, Kevin Hayes Jr., is a forward with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kevin Hayes Sr. told the Globe that his late son had sought treatment for an addiction to pills, which developed after he began taking painkillers to get over an injury.
"I’m an addict myself," Hayes Sr. said “I’m sober a long, long time, but I know how powerful this stuff is. I was in shock when it happened, but then I started putting stuff together in my head... I know what addiction does. I know about addiction.
“About maybe 16 or 17 months ago, I saw a little change in Jimmy’s behaviour and I went to him and I said ‘I think there might be a problem here with pills.' He had had an injury for a while and I think he started taking the painkillers and they get you.
“I said, ‘Jim, I think I see a problem here.’ And he’s 31 years old so I can’t tell him to go get help. So I said, ‘when you want help, I’ll be here for you, pal. Let me know.’
"He called me three weeks later and said, ‘Dad, I’m hooked on these pills. I got injured and I started taking them and I never got off.’ And I said, 'well, let’s get you some help.' He went to a place up in Haverhill. So he gets help and everything was on the path to recovery I thought. But this (expletive) is so powerful."
Hayes' death sent shockwaves through the tight-knit New England hockey community and through the greater NHL community as well. More than 8,000 people attended his wake and the Devils and Blackhawks both honoured him when they faced each other in a game earlier this week.
While nothing can bring Hayes back, hopefully his story can save someone else.