An autopsy report had initially not confirmed the cause of death, with family awaiting results from the toxicology to confirm that Jimmy Hayes had shockingly overdosed.
“I was completely shocked,” Jimmy’s wife, Kristen Hayes, told The Boston Globe on Sunday. She received the report through a call on Friday on her way to a Devils-Blackhawks game where Jimmy Hayes was to be remembered in a pregame tribute. Over the course of his career, he played for both the Chicago Blackhawks and the New Jersey Devils, as well as his hometown Boston Bruins.
“I was so certain that it had nothing to do with drugs,” she said. “I really thought it was a heart attack or anything that wasn’t that. It didn’t make any sense, so it was hard.”
“I was hoping to get a different phone call when they called,” Kristen Hayes said of the devastating news. “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.”
Jimmy Hayes, who was 31 at the time of his death, was survived by his two young children as well–Beau, who had just celebrated his second birthday right before his father’s passing, and Mac, their now-five-month-old newborn.
In the weeks following his death, Kristen Hayes posted heartbreaking tributes on Instagram to their marriage and life together. She shared images of the four of them on the beach, on vacation, and celebrating their son Beau’s birthday the weekend before Jimmy’s untimely passing. She called him “My Angel,” and often wrote about how difficult and unfair it would be to “go on without you.”
Her latest post, from Oct. 9, was from a hockey rink dedicated to Jimmy Hayes, with Kristen writing “the 4 of us” while holding her two boys.
He was remembered at the time by former coaches and family members in the NHL as one of the nicest and selfless guys they’ve ever met. “Everyone wanted to be around Jim, the big, goofy, horrible dancer, funny, genuine and kindest person around,” his brother Kevin Jr. wrote. “I will never forget the times we shared or the memories we made and know that I will try my hardest to have your legacy live on.”
In an emotional testament to his son, Jimmy’s father Kevin Hayes told The Boston Globe that that he hoped Jimmy’s story could, “save someone’s life.”
“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. “You have a beautiful, All-American boy who made a terrible mistake and it cost him his life.”
He said that a little over a year ago, he thought he noticed “a change” in his son’s behavior, and spoke with him briefly.
“I went to him and I said, ‘I think there might be a problem here with pills,'” Kevin Hayes recalled. “He had had an injury for a while, and I think he started taking the painkillers and they get you.”
“I said, ‘Jim, I think I see a problem here,” he said. “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.'”
Jimmy Hayes called his father three weeks later and told him that he was “hooked on these pills” and needed help. Kevin took him to a recovery center in Haverhill, Mass., where he thought that his son was on the road to recovery. He said that he was hesitant to share his story because he did not want Jimmy to be “stigmatized as a junkie.”
“Jimmy helped everyone,” Kevin Hayes said. “Some of the stories I’ve been hearing. He never said no. [Former Boston Bruin hockey player] Torey Krug told me they used to go to Children’s Hospital. Jimmy would 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 … is just so powerful.”