Does the NHL have a growing problem with players using illicit drugs? It depends on who you ask.
According to a report published Monday in The Athletic, cocaine and ecstasyare becoming increasinglypopular among NHL players, with the athletes choosing the drugsover alcoholin some instances.
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Its really the secret that everybody knows, an anonymous former NHL player told The Athletic. Guys are just popping molly on the weekends or before a team Halloween party or whatever.
Anaheim Ducks forward Adam Henrique appeared to echo the anonymous former player.
Cocaine is a huge drug now, Henrique told The Athletic. It seems so casual, that its not a big deal; like having a beer almost, which is kinda scary. Where does it stop?
One executive went as far as telling The Athletic that rumors of top NHL stars developing a reputation for using the drugs are rampant.
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Questions over NHL players alleged illicit drug use were recently raised when Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov received a four-year ban by the International Ice Hockey Federation after he tested positive for cocaine while playing for Russia at the world championship in May. He had previously been seen in a video that appeared to show him ina hotel room alongside lines of a white powdery substance.
Kuznetsov denied using drugs and received a three-game suspension from the NHL for what was termed inappropriate conduct.
A recent ESPN survey among NHL players, however, seemed to tell a different story. About 58 percent of the surveyors said the NHL doesnt have a cocaine problem while 32 percent were unsure and 10 percent agreed that there was an issue.
I dont think there is a problem compared to the problem outside the NHL, an anonymous NHL player told ESPN. Its probably the same. Id guess some people would use it to party, Id assume, but what is a problem? How would you define problem?
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The use of drugs by players previously received attention when former Los Angeles Kings center JarretStoll was arrested for cocaine and MDMA possession in 2015. He later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in the case, according to the Los Angeles Times.
ESPN noted at the time that the NHL-NHL Players Association joint drug-testing program was not designed to target recreational drugs, including cocaine and marijuana, but was more focused on targeting performance-enhancing drugs.
Both parties agreed in 2013 to add cocaine to the list of prohibited substances and in 2017 the NHLPA announced that all doping samples would be tested for cocaine.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also downplayed the number of players using cocaine in a 2015 interview with TSN.
The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and theyre going up, Daly said. I wouldnt say its a crisis in any sense. What Id say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and youve hit a cycle where its an in drug again.
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Id be shocked if were talking about a couple dozen guys. I dont want to be nave herebut if were talking more than 20 guys Id be shocked. Because we dont test in a comprehensive way, I cant say.
Its unclear how many players have been suspended for using cocaine. The NHL has said it would not suspend players for testing positive for marijuana.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.B: