The family of a late, former NHL hockey player has said his brain will be donated for CTE research.
Jeff Parker, originally from White Bear Lake, died at a Minneapolis hospital on Monday from a heart and lung infection just a week after his 53rd birthday, KSTP reports.
He was among 150 former players who are part of a federal lawsuit accusing the NHL of failing to warn players about the health risks associated with brain injuries.
Now that the father-of-two has passed away, his brain will be donated to the CTE Center in Boston to see whether he suffered from the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, his family told Canada's TSN sports network.
CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death, has been found in several deceased NHL players, including former Wild player Derek Boogaard.
It's also become a major talking point in the NFL, where a recent study of 111 dead former football players found traces of the disease in 110 of them.
TSN reports that Parker had spoken about suffering from repeated concussions while playing in the NHL which impacted him in his later life. The Star Tribune reports two severe head injuries in 1991 led to memory loss and mood swings.
He became a public face of the NHL concussion lawsuit in the U.S., following a career that saw him play 141 games with the Buffalo Sabres and the Hartford Whalers after being drafted by Buffalo in 1982, TSN notes.
In a tribute on Facebook, the Parker family said: "Jeff was famous for his grit and toughness on the ice, but off the ice for having a big heart. He was known for his sense of humor and was the king of one-liners.
"Although he suffered from many medical issues, he never complained. He took time to talk with those he met, showed a genuine interest in their lives, and wanted to lend a hand if he could. Even as he lie in the hospital, exhausted, he wanted to order pizza for his visitors. That was Jeff."
Not looking 'for a pot of gold'
The White Bear Press spoke with Parker earlier this year, noting he had been working as a bartender at Lonetti's on Rice Street in St. Paul, covering day shifts "to avoid sunlight."
He said his ears would also ring constantly, and the only compensation from the NHL was a $366 monthly check for his five years in the league.
He told the newspaper the plaintiffs in the lawsuit weren't looking for a "pot of gold" from the NHL, just health insurance.