Hayes was just 31 at the time of his passing, and his family hopes that his story will help others struggling with addiction. Hayes left behind two young sons, and his wife, Kristen, was shocked when she learned of the autopsy results on Friday.
“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],” Kristen Hayes told Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe. “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 developed a problem with pain pills at some point during his seven-year hockey career, which included two seasons with his hometown Bruins. His wife and friends believed that Hayes’ struggle was behind him.
But Hayes’ father, Kevin, knew something was off with his son before his passing.
“I’m an addict myself,” the the 66-year-old told the Boston Globe. “I’m sober a long, long time, but I know how powerful this stuff is. I was in shock when it happened, but then I started putting stuff together in my head . . . I know what addiction does. I know about addiction.
“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,” Kevin Hayes added. “I said, ‘Jim, I think I see a problem here.’ 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.'”
The elder Hayes said his son called him three weeks later and admitted that he was “hooked on these pills.” That is when Hayes checked into a facility in Haverhill.
The Hayes family now hopes that something good can come out of the loss of their loved one.
“I don’t want him to be stigmatized like as a [expletive] junkie,” said Kevin Hayes. “You know what I mean? Because he wasn’t. Jimmy helped everyone. Some of the stories I’ve been hearing. He never said no. [Former Bruin] Torey Krug told me they used to go to Children’s Hospital. Jimmy’d fall in love with a kid, then go back a week later. And a week later. He was just a wonderful kid, but this addiction [expletive] is just so powerful. If I had a formula that could tell people.
“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,” Hayes said. “You have a beautiful, All-American boy who made a terrible mistake and it cost him his life.”