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Former NHL Player Jimmy Hayes’ Death Linked to Fentanyl and Cocaine

Fentanyl overdoses are again on the rise in the United States, with many news outlets reporting that painkillers and other drugs are being laced with the potent substance — which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

This past August, former Boston Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes was pronounced dead by officials after being discovered unresponsive in his home. Today, autopsy results have revealed Hayes’ cause of death to be acute intoxication from the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine. Jimmy was just 31 years old.

According to the Boston Globe, Jimmy’s wife Kristen was “shocked” about Jimmy’s cause of death, stating that, “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.”

While Kristen was dismayed to discover her husband’s private battle with drugs, Jimmy’s father, Kevin, had an inkling that things were trending in the wrong direction for his son. Also speaking to the Boston Globe, Kevin Hayes said, “About maybe 16 or 17 months ago, I saw a little change in Jimmy’s behavior 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.”

The elder Hayes stated that he had also struggled with drug use in the past, but that he has been sober for many years. It was perhaps because of his own connection to addiction that he recognized the signs in his own son, even offering to help Jimmy find treatment. Kevin Hayes told the Globe that Jimmy completed a program sometime after revealing his struggles to his father, and that he appeared to be “on the road to recovery.”

In addition to his wife, Jimmy leaves behind two young sons, as well as his younger brother Kevin, who currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers and previously played alongside Jimmy at Boston College. At Jimmy’s funeral, Kevin Jr. shared a poignant story about the type of person that Jimmy was as he recalled the impact he made on a terminally ill child while playing for the Bruins.

As for the elder Kevin Hayes, he hopes that Jimmy’s story can help other families, and that his death will not be in vain. “I hope getting Jimmy’s story out there can save someone’s life. If this can save someone from the pain, great. It’s just so sad. I pride myself on being pretty mentally strong. I’m a street guy. But there’s just no formula for this,” he said.

Jimmy’s story further proves that addiction does not discriminate—and that its ruthlessness knows no bounds. While Jimmy outwardly appeared to be doing well, he waged a private battle with an insidious disease.

Elsewhere in the sports world, University of Texas linebacker Jake Ehlinger’s cause of death was also revealed to be linked to a fatal overdose of fentanyl. The younger brother of Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Sam Ehlinger, Jake is believed to have taken a Xanax that was laced with fentanyl—ultimately taking his life. At just 20 years old, Ehlinger had a bright future ahead of him—and his family hopes that his story will “help shed light on this problem,” of counterfeit pills being distributed, according to an official statement.

With more families like the Hayes and the Ehlingers coming forward to share their children’s stories, families around the world can find hope in knowing that they are not alone—and that awareness can make all the difference in recognizing signs and getting help.

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