Once broken, some machines can't be fixed.
Mechanisms are too intricate to be properly understood, the hands repairing them too ham-fisted.
Bring imponderables like an injured human brain in the throes of addiction into the equation, and you have a proliferation of complex problems with no easy solution in sight.
This is what is alleged in a U.S. federal indictment: former Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers behemoth Derek Boogaard, returning from a long concussion-related layoff (courtesy of a fight with then-Ottawa Senators defenceman Matt Carkner) showed up for a practice with the Blueshirts on April 4, 2011.
He could hardly stay upright on his skates, say documents filed in a New York federal court, and "appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance"; the next day he quietly checked into a rehab facility in California.
Thirty-seven days later, he was dead.
By the time Boogaard left the Rangers, he had been suffering for weeks in the dark of his Manhattan apartment from concussion-related migraines, self-medicating with Ambien, a sleeping aid prescribed by Rangers doctors (the club is referred to only as "team 2" in the indictment, Boogaard is referred to as "player 1") and Percocet, which contains the opioid analgesic more famously known as oxycodone.
He didn't have a prescription for the latter substance.
But according to the indictment, he knew where to get some: a former minor pro hockey player who is now facing the prospect of a lengthy jail term.
Boogaard died over three years ago from an accidental overdose of alcohol and painkillers, only now are federal authorities in the U.S. publicly piecing together how he got his hands on the pills that contributed to his death.
There is nothing novel about Boogaard's drug-seeking behaviour, it is replicated all over the world daily; nor is it a huge revelation that athletes share pills and hook one another up with friends who can provide them, in fact this very newspaper explored that issue at length a few weeks after Boogaard died.
What the indictment does reveal are the mechanics.
Boogaard, it is alleged, made the acquaintance of a former minor-league defenceman named Jordan Hart, the son of a much-beloved former New York Islanders blueliner, some time in 2010.
The Saskatchewan native was well-acquainted with pharmaceutical-grade pain medicine by the time he allegedly encountered Hart via an unidentified Rangers teammate, but according to the indictment was looking for a trustworthy source and willing to pay a premium because he "had to be careful with whom he dealt given his status in the NHL."
Hart, who once earned a rookie camp invite with the Isles and briefly played for their AHL affiliate, had recently retired from the East Coast Hockey League, where he played two seasons with the Utah Grizzlies.
It was in Salt Lake City that Hart met a physician's assistant named Oscar Johnson, who was on the Grizzlies' medical staff, a man federal prosecutors claim illegally supplied him with a series of prescriptions for Percocet.
The indictment alleges that Johnson mailed prescriptions to Hart for as many as 3,000 pills over a two-year period without examining or seeing the latter (the document claims Johnson told an inquisitive assistant the prescriptions were for a lingering shoulder injury).
Hart, it is further alleged, filled out the prescriptions on Long Island – he is from Huntington, N.Y. – where Boogaard would drive out to meet him far away from prying Rangers eyes.
According to the documents, Boogaard would usually stop off at a cash machine or pay Hart with cheques – the New York Times indicated a $4,000 cancelled cheque found by Boogaard's father was the catalyst for the investigation – and that on at least one occasion "began chewing and swallowing Percocet pills on his return drive immediately after purchasing pills from Hart."
Since Boogaard died – the first tragedy in a summer where NHL tough guys Rick Rypien and Wade Belak also passed on – the league has tightened its medical protocols, reviewed the way painkillers are dispensed, and bolstered its addiction counselling program (among other measures).
But can any of those things can prevent the sort of system that Johnson and Hart are alleged to have erected? (the U.S. Attorney has a less genteel term for it: conspiracy)
The two are now facing a raft of charges that carry maximum sentences of 20 years in stir.
The Boogaard family has filed a wrongful death suit against the NHL.
Barring a settlement they'll have their day in court, as they should.
What isn't clear is what the NHL – or any other sports league, employer, or government – can realistically do to disable the clandestine machine that provided one of the substances involved in Derek Boogaard's death.
That's not comforting, given the grim consequences for Boogaard and his family.
But if it's true that some contraptions are nearly impossible to fix, logic dictates it's at least possible that others are just as hard to break.