Professional athletes train hard to stay at the top of their game. Sometimes, though, athletes tragically die at a young age due to a medical condition, drugs, or an accident. The following hockey players passed away during their careers, leaving fans to wonder what could have been.
The Humboldt Broncos hockey team
The most notable, recent example of hockey players passing away during their playing careers happened to members of a youth team, rather than pros. The Humboldt Broncos hockey team was involved in an April 2018 bus crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 others. The driver of the semi-truck that hit the bus failed to yield at a stop sign in Saskatchewan, Canada. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
After a successful collegiate career at Harvard and several seasons in the AHL, Tom Cavanagh made his NHL debut with the Sharks in the 2007-08 season. Cavanagh dealt with mental health issues, including schizophrenia, throughout his life, which led police to believe this contributed to his death at the age of 28.
In January 2011, his body was found in a parking garage at a Rhode Island mall. The cause of death was determined to be multiple traumatic injuries caused by blunt force impact. Police believe Cavanagh’s death was a suicide.
Steve Chiasson played more than 750 games in the NHL. Sadly, his career was cut short in 1999. At the time, the Canadian was playing for the Carolina Hurricanes, who’d just been eliminated from the playoffs. After attending a team party, Chiasson was killed in a car crash. The 32-year-old was driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level of .27 — more than three times the legal limit in North Carolina.
John Kordic played for four teams during his seven-year NHL career, dealing with demons in his personal life the whole time. This ultimately contributed to the 27-year-old’s death on August 8, 1992. Kordic overdosed on drugs following an altercation with police at a Quebec motel. The official cause of death was lung failure due to heart malfunction.
Derek Boogaard suffered concussion-related issues during his NHL career. This may have contributed to his addiction to painkillers and other prescription drugs. On May 13, 2011, the 28-year-old died from an accidental drug and alcohol overdose while he was recovering from a concussion.
After his death, Boogaard’s family donated his brain to the Boston University Medical School’s Sports Legacy Institute. Researchers concluded he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which caused significant damage to his brain tissue. Well-known in the football and hockey worlds, CTE is caused by taking too many blows to the head.
Luc Bourdon spent a lot of time in the QMJHL before playing a total of 77 games in the NHL and AHL. He turned 21 in February 2008. Tragically, he died in his native New Brunswick, Canada three months later. The Canucks rookie was killed instantly when he was involved in a head-on collision on May 29, 2008.
Bourdon crossed the center line after losing control of his motorcycle. He hit a tractor-trailer and was killed by the impact. Authorities believe his inexperience operating a motorcycle contributed to the accident, as did the weather. Environment Canada showed winds in the area at the time of the crash were blowing at more than 31 miles per hour.