NHL acknowledges it has a cocaine problem among players

The Weeknd
The Weeknd

Last month, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect named Viktor Loov told a Swedish news outlet that “there is a lot of cocaine” in the NHL.

“There are players everywhere who do it,” he said, via Pension Plan Puppets. “If you have money you probably have easy access.”

How much cocaine? Enough that the NHL has been forced to acknowledge that more than a few players are using it, and that the League might have to be more proactive in testing for it.

Rick Westhead of TSN wrote on Monday that the NHL is in talks with the NHLPA about adding cocaine and similar narcotics “to the list of banned substances for which the league regularly monitors.”

From TSN:

"The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they're going up," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN in an interview. "I wouldn't say it's a crisis in any sense. What I'd say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you've hit a cycle where it's an 'in' drug again.

"I'd be shocked if we're talking about a couple dozen guys. I don't want to be naïve here … but if we're talking more than 20 guys I'd be shocked. Because we don't test in a comprehensive way, I can't say."

There were 882 NHL skaters last season that played at least one game. We’re going to go ahead and assume it’s more than 20.

Westhead writes that NHLPA chief Don Fehr has spoken to players behind closed doors about the rise in cocaine use. He also said that the players would have to collectively bargain for drugs like cocaine to be added to the testing list.

One of the most intriguing passages in the piece concerns the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Last season, a senior Maple Leafs team executive met with Toronto Police Service officers to address concerns that Leafs players were purportedly using cocaine or were associating with those who were, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Speaking of the police, an accompanying interview with former NHLer Todd Fedoruk, who used cocaine while in the League, yielded this beautiful passage:

I got away with stuff because I was a hockey player. Like getting pulled over by the cops. You're drunk, but they're like, 'You're drunk, but get home, take care of yourself.' For me it happened a few times. Driving around and you had a few drinks, and the cop could tell but he was a season ticket holder. So he'd follow you home. I guess it's a good thing but it enables bad things down the road. I'm not saying it happened every night.  

It depends on where you are. In Philly, there's a history of (police) taking care of us.

Well, that’s just shocking. Almost makes you want to fly off to some dry island and contemplate life for a while …

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Look, cocaine has been in the NHL for decades. It was a problem in Edmonton during the glory years, and it was a problem for Bob Probert and it’s probably a problem on any team that finds fast success and then inexplicably loses its grip on it in subsequent seasons.

That the NHL chose to acknowledge it now speaks to (a) how much the stakes have been raised for hockey from an image perspective and (b) that it’s serious enough that the League needed to let the players know that mom and dad are watching.