Puck Daddy- In early October, TSN’s Rick Westhead spoke to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who acknowledged the league doesn’t test for cocaine “in a comprehensive way.”
The league’s drug test program is listed on its website and says the NHL tests at least two times per season for performance enhancing drugs.
From Westhead's report:
One-third of the 2,400 player urine samples collected each year are screened more closely for drugs of abuse, such as cocaine. Those more comprehensive tests have shown cocaine use by NHL players is on the rise.
He also noted the NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr, "raised the issue of cocaine" last season warning players about the "health dangers and the consequences of being caught."
Look, I don't think it comes as much of a surprise to anyone that cocaine use runs pretty rampant in the NHL. After all, put a bunch of white guys with money in a room together for long enough and they are bound to convince each other to do some things they probably shouldn't. That's basically the entire concept behind a frat house. The popularity of the drug amongst the league was bound to become news sooner rather than later, so good for the NHL for attacking the story before the story attacked them. Who knew that a league that has always had such a hard time marketing itself had passed 'Public Relations 101'?
Let's be honest, no franchise really cares about it's players using drugs, nor should they. As long as their employees can adequately do their jobs they should be able to do whatever they want, relatively speaking, on their "down" time. These leagues really only care about the public perception that comes with substance abuse, not the actual health of the abuser. That's why the NHL implementing a system that doesn't suspend first time offenders is actually genius. Prove to the viewing public that you are concerned, without actually taking away from the product on the ice. Who would have thought that the NHL would be the one league to address drug use in the least detrimental way to their sport?
Just take a look at the other examples of professional sports organizations cracking down on illegal substances. The MLB suspends players, many of them being the best the sport has to offer, extensive amounts of time for PED use. The NBA suspends players for marijuana use. The NFL suspends players, many times up to a quarter of their entire season, for both of those things. Nope, not the NHL. You want to play professional puck and dabble in the nose candy on the side then you are only going to inconvenience yourself by having to attend a substance abuse program. You damn sure aren't inconveniencing the league by taking an NHL caliber talent away from the game. At least not the first time anyway. Did the National Hockey League just prove to be the most liberal of all the four major sports? Talk about an upset!