April 29, 2008
Paul Lukas of Uni Watch put together a rather brilliant column over on Page 2 that detailed the storied history of smoking in sports, from coaches puffing on cigars to athletes from Joe DiMaggio to John Daly taking a drag. Regarding hockey, Lukas wrote:
Lots of NHL players have smoked, but photos are fairly scarce. The only confirmed cases so far: Terry Sawchuk, Derek Sanderson, Bobby Hull, and Miikka Kiprusoff and Dion Phaneuf.
Japers Rink adds a critical name to that list in former NHL defenseman Al Iafrate, who "once bummed a smoke off of an Ottawa reporter between periods before lighting it with the trainer's blowtorch." Awesome. Cigarette smoking in the NHL is pretty well kept out of the public eye these days, as is the chewing tobacco that at least one very prominent player partakes in. Sponsors and parents aren't exactly keen on having the hockey heroes of our nations' children going through smokes like they're Denis Leary circa 1994.
But hockey is still a cigar man's game: From The Great One on the golf course to the humidor that Darren McCarty unfortunately had to part with when he filed for bankruptcy. Perhaps the greatest smoking tradition in hockey is the post-championship stogie that numerous Stanley Cup champions have sparked up.
The piece of news Lukas used as a jumping-off point for his ESPN piece was Braves manager Bobby Cox learning the other day that he might have to ditch his postgame cigar in New York because Shea Stadium is smoke-free. While it's hard to imagine the P.C. police raiding a championship locker room, we're in an increasingly puritanical society when it comes to vices; a world where nightclubs are smoke-free and Jeremy Roenick is on the wagon, for Pete's sake. Here's hoping this grand Stanley Cup ritual remains untouched; there's nothing lamer than a couple of "bite it, don't light it" dudes wasting quality Cubans.
UPDATE: Our buddy Hooks Orpik from The Sweater Ted adds another famous NHL smoker: Mario Lemieux, who had a half-pack-a-day habit early in his career that actually had some questioning his dedication to hockey. Anyone else have a smokin' NHLer to mention? Put'em in the comments ...