If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 211 or visit 211maine.org.
Former NHL player Jimmy Hayes had fentanyl and cocaine in his body when he died suddenly in August at the age of 31.
Hayes, who retired after the 2017-18 season after a seven-year career, died at his home in Milton, Massachusetts, on Aug. 23.
A Massachusetts state medical examiner has ruled his death as accidental from “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine,” according to the Boston Globe.
“I was completely shocked,” his widow, Kristen, told the newspaper. “I was so certain that it had nothing to do with drugs. I really thought it was a heart attack or anything that wasn’t that [drugs]. … It didn’t make any sense, so it was hard. I was hoping to get a different phone call when they called. I was hoping to get some clarity and I was shocked to hear that it was that. … He never showed any signs of a struggle at home.”
Hayes’ father, a self-described addict, said he had watched his son’s behavior change about a year and a half ago and immediately suspected pills.
“I said, ‘Jim, I think I see a problem here,’” Kevin Hayes told the Globe. “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.’”
Weeks later, Kevin Hayes said, Jimmy told him that he had started taking painkillers after getting injured and “never got off.”
Hayes was working to get clean when he died, a day after celebrating his 2-year-old son’s birthday.
“He would never want to see me, and the boys, and our family hurting the way we are,’’ Kristen Hayes told the Globe. “I know he would give anything to still be here with us today. I am heartbroken and devastated, but I will choose to remember my husband and the boys’ dad by all the joy and love he brought us, and I hope everyone else does, too.’’
Kevin Hayes said he hopes his son’s story helps destigmatize addiction and convince someone else to get help.
On Friday, hours after the medical examiner released the toxicology report, the New Jersey Devils and the Chicago Blackhawks, two of the teams Hayes played for, warmed up in jerseys sporting his name and number. The Devils played a tribute video during the game.
Hayes is survived by his wife, Kristen, 2-year-old son Beau and infant son Mac.
Kate Feldman, New York Daily News