Is there a cocaine problem in the NHL? Depends on who you ask.
Several players in recent years have admitted to using the drug — including Oilers forward Zack Kassian and former longtime NHLer Nick Boynton — while others have been involved in higher-profile incidents.
“It’s really the secret that everybody knows,” one former NHLer told The Athletic, adding that ecstasy usage is on the rise, as well. “Guys are just popping molly on the weekends or before a team Halloween party or whatever.”
The topic of drug usage in the NHL made headlines this offseason when Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov denied using drugs after video surfaced of him in a hotel room alongside a few lines of a white powder. Kuznetsov later tested positive for cocaine while playing for Russia at the world championship in May, and was issued a four-year ban by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The NHL suspended Kuznetsov for three regular-season games for what it called “inappropriate conduct.”
While the NHL takes a lax stance to its drug testing — all players are tested, but are not suspended for a positive first test — cocaine has become a cause for concern around league front offices. The Athletic reports that one executive said rumors of top players “developing a reputation” for usage are “rampant.”
“Cocaine is a huge drug now,” Anaheim Ducks forward and former New Jersey Devils star Adam Henrique said. “It seems so casual, that it’s not a big deal; like having a beer almost, which is kinda scary. Where does it stop?”
But for other players, however, the level of concern seems to be much lower.
According to an anonymous ESPN poll, 58% of respondents said the NHL doesn’t have a cocaine problem, with 32% not being sure and 10% saying the league does.
“I don’t think there is a problem compared to the problem outside the NHL,” one player told ESPN. “It’s probably the same. I’d guess some people would use it to party, I’d assume, but what is a problem? How would you define ‘problem’?”
“Has anyone said yes to this question?,” another responded. “I really don’t think there is one, so I’d be shocked if someone said yes.”
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