On the heels of two high-profile arrests, and an acknowledgement that recreational drugs are increasing in popularity, the NHL and NHL Players Association have reportedly begun talks aimed at adding cocaine to the league’s list of banned substances.
The report from TSN’s Rick Westhead said the NHL is acknowledging and trying to address increased use of cocaine among its players. In April, former Kings, now Rangers, center Jarret Stoll was arrested in Las Vegas for cocaine possession. He pleaded to two misdemeanor charges in June and signed with the Rangers in August. In April 2014, former Lightning left winger Ryan Malone was arrested for DUI and possession of cocaine. He was not convicted.
In the TSN story, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly admits they are seeing increased use of “party drugs.”
“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they're going up,” 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.”
More comprehensive testing may be on the way, but adding testing for cocaine would be a collective bargaining issue. Under the current program, players are tested at least twice throughout the season for performance-enhancing drugs, and 60 players are tested during the off-season. Only one-third of all the samples are also tested for drugs like cocaine.
Westhead reported that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr held close-door meetings with several NHL teams last year to discuss increased cocaine use, and will continue to do so this year.