Nearly two months after Jimmy Hayes unexpectedly died at the age of 31 in his Milton, Massachusetts, home, the cause and manner of his death have been revealed.
The former Boston Bruins forward died with fentanyl and cocaine in his system, a spokesperson for the state's executive office of public safety and security told NBC10 Boston Sunday night.
Following an autopsy, the medical examiner determined the Dorchester native died from acute intoxication due to the combined effects of the two drugs. His death was ruled an accident.
Foul play had not been suspected after first responders pronounced the former professional hockey player dead at his home on Aug. 23, the morning after he and his wife Kristen celebrated their son Beau's second birthday with friends, family and former teammates.
In partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia
In a Sunday interview with the Boston Globe, Kristen Hayes said she was "completely shocked" by the findings about her husband's death. She was on her way to New Jersey for a tribute to Jimmy at the Devils-Blackhawks game Friday when she got the toxicology report from the state medical examiner.
“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," she told the Globe.
Jimmy Hayes' dad, a recovered addict himself, told the Globe he was less surprised, having noticed a change in his son's behavior about 16-17 months ago.
Kevin Hayes Sr. said his son had developed a problem with painkillers that he was taking for an injury. But after he received treatment at a place in Haverhill, everyone thought Jimmy was on the path to recovery. But addiction is a powerful thing.
“You have a beautiful, All-American boy who made a terrible mistake and it cost him his life," Jimmy's dad told the Globe.
Jimmy's younger brother Kevin, who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, said in a recent interview with the Associated Press that his brother was happy in retirement, loving his role as family man, golfer, podcaster and Kevin's biggest fan.
Kevin said nothing was out of the ordinary when he was at his nephew Beau's birthday bash on Aug. 22. The brothers planned a golf outing and said goodbye at the end of the night, but the next morning their mother called Kevin screaming.
“I woke up in the morning to my mom screaming on the phone. My mom screamed, ‘He’s dead’ and I knew what she was talking about," Kevin told the AP, adding he rushed back to his brother's home and "saw him being wheeled out."
At his brother and best friend's funeral on Aug. 30, Kevin told a packed St. Ann's Church in Dorchester that everyone is a better person for having known Jimmy, who through his actions taught us all "to be a better friend, a better brother, a better son, husband and father."
Since his shocking death, Jimmy has been remembered for his kindness, fun-loving nature and his ability to touch others. He has received tributes from several NHL teams, including the Bruins, as they kick off the 2021-22 season.
At Jimmy's funeral, Kristen described her husband's "heart of gold" and called him the "biggest hype dad of all time" to their two sons, Beau and Mac. She says she wants her late husband to be remembered for how he lived, not how he died.
“He would never want to see me, and the boys, and our family hurting the way we are,’’ she shared in a prepared statement with the Globe. “I know he would give anything to still be here with us today."
In a story on her Instagram account Monday, Kristen wrote that Jimmy's legacy is not defined by his drug addiction, and she will tell their sons, 2-year-old Beau and 5-month-old Mac, to "#belikejimmy," remarking how generous and kind Jimmy was to everyone he encountered.
"Though we are shocked and heartbroken beyond words, I choose to remember my husband and the boys' father by the enormous love and joy he brought us and so many others," she shared. "This battle does not define him, and I will still tell my boys to #belikejimmy."
Kristen hopes sharing Jimmy's story will do good, particularly for those who may be struggling with some of the same things her late husband was.
"Jimmy touched so many lives while he was here by living so generously and open heartedly, and I hope his story can continue to make a positive impact, especially for anyone struggling with the grips of substance abuse," she wrote.
Kristen ended her story sharing that she sincerely appreciates all of the support that has been shown to her family during this difficult time.
After helping Boston College win a national championship as a sophomore in 2010, Jimmy enjoyed seven years in the National Hockey League, playing in 334 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Bruins and the New Jersey Devils. After getting his NHL start with the Blackhawks in 2011, Jimmy's childhood dream was fulfilled when he joined the Bruins in 2015. He spent two seasons in Boston before his professional career came to an end with the Devils in 2017-18.