Former Bruins winger and Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes, who was found dead in his Milton home on August 23, died with fentanyl and cocaine in his body, his wife and father revealed on Sunday.
This is the news some feared when the hugely popular mainstay of the community passed away after celebrating his son’s second birthday with his wife, Kristen, and baby on a perfect Sunday seven weeks ago.
Hayes’ sudden death made no sense at the moment. The 6-foot-5, 31-year-old ex-athlete presented himself as a healthy and happy young man, thriving in a life filled with parents, podcasts and good deeds for others. Jimmy Hayes had a beautiful wife, two lovely boys and a house in Milton. His parents, sisters, brothers and cousins were all around him. He had it all.
And then he was gone; another promising young life cut short by the national opioid scourge.
Most of those around him had never seen him coming.
An autopsy was performed two days after her death, but the Hayes family did not learn the cause of her death until Friday, as they traveled to New Jersey for a pre-game tribute to Hayes during the Blackhawks game. -Devils. That’s when Kristen Hayes got the toxicology report from the Massachusetts state medical examiner.
“I was completely shocked,” said Kristen. “I was so sure it had nothing to do with drugs. I really thought it was a heart attack or whatever wasn’t it [drugs] . . . It didn’t make sense, so it was difficult. I was hoping to get another phone call when they called. I was hoping for clarification and was shocked to learn that was it. . . He never showed any sign of a struggle at home. “
Hayes’ close friends were also surprised. Many of them knew that Hayes had developed a problem with pain relievers during his hockey career. Some knew he had recently undergone treatment for the problem, but Hayes’ wife and many of his friends were pretty sure it was behind him.
Kevin Hayes, Jimmy’s father, was not as surprised as everyone.
“I myself am an addict,” said the 66-year-old father of five. “I’ve been sober for a long, long time, but I know how powerful this stuff is. I was in shock when it happened, but then I started to put things together in my head. . . I know what addiction does. I know about addiction.
“Maybe 16 or 17 months ago I saw a little change in Jimmy’s behavior and I went to see him and I said to him, ‘I think there might be a problem here with the pills. ‘ He had had an injury for a while and I think he started taking pain relievers and they get you.
“I said, ‘Jim, I think I see a problem here.’ And he’s 31 so I can’t tell him to go get help. So I said, ‘When you need help, I’ll be there for you, mate. Let me know.’
“He called me three weeks later and said, ‘Daddy, I’m addicted to these pills. I hurt myself and started taking them and never got off. And I said, ‘Well, let’s go help you.’ He went to a place in Haverhill. So he got help and it was all on the road to recovery, I thought. But this [expletive] is so powerful. “
Hayes won an NCAA Championship at Boston College and played for the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Bruins and New Jersey Devils during his seven-year NHL career. He played for the Bruins from 2015 to 2017 and retired after the 2017-18 season. He was one of five children of Kevin and Shelagh Hayes of Dorchester. Jimmy’s younger brother Kevin Hayes Jr. is a star forward for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Over 8,000 mourners attended Hayes’ vigil at Florian Hall in Dorchester on August 29. Hayes’ widow and younger brother Kevin delivered praise the next day at a funeral service at St. Ann’s Church on Neponset Avenue.
The outpouring of the community came as no surprise to those who knew Jimmy Hayes. Ask anyone who has ever known him.
“He’s one of the biggest kids I’ve ever coached,” said Rob Griffin, a family friend, a Boston commercial real estate manager who has run local hockey programs for over 20 years. years. “I coached about 20 kids who made it to the NHL, but Jimmy had the biggest heart.
Ask anyone who has played with him. Ask anyone who works for the Bruins (the B’s wore Hayes tribute patches on their helmets for their opener on Saturday). Ask Boston College coach Jerry York. Ask the folks at Champions for Children’s Hospital Fund. They all only share wonderful memories of Jimmy Hayes.
Kristen Hayes composed some thoughts ahead of Sunday’s interview.
“He would never want to see me and the boys and our family suffer as we are,” she wrote. “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 father of the boys for all the joy and love he has brought us, and I hope everyone too. “
Jimmy’s father is hopeful that something good can come out of this unspeakable loss.
“I don’t want him to be branded as a [expletive] junkie, ”said Kevin Hayes. ” You know what I mean? Because he wasn’t. Jimmy helped everyone. Some of the stories that I have heard. He never said no. [Former Bruin] Torey Krug told me they were going to the children’s hospital. Jimmy fell in love with a child, then returned a week later. And a week later. He was just a wonderful child, but this addiction [expletive] is so powerful. If I had a formula that could tell people.
“I hope that broadcasting Jimmy’s story can save someone’s life. If that can save someone from pain, so much the better. It’s so sad. I’m proud to be mentally strong enough. I’m a street guy. But there is simply no formula for it.
“You have a handsome All-American boy who made a terrible mistake and it cost him his life. “
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @dan_shaughnessy.