Did you know that NHL players do not have to worry about testing positive for marijuana? Unlike the NBA or the NFL, professional hockey players simply get a phone call asking if everything is alright when they test positive for THC.
Hockey can be a brutal sport too, especially for players like Riley Cote. Riley made his living fighting on the ice as opposed to scoring goals and he is thankful that cannabis is not on the NHL banned substance list.
“I’d quietly use it as an ally of mine. It helped me manage anxiety [and]pain,” he says. “There was no physical addiction. It just made me feel better.”
Since his retirement in 2010, Cote helped found Athletes for Care — a non-profit organization that advocates for holistic approaches to wellness for current and retired athletes. Today he says he was far from alone among hockey players in consuming cannabis products — even in leagues where the practice was outright banned.
“Good people break bad laws, I guess,” he says. “At least half of those guys [I competed with and against] consumed, and a fraction of those guys consumed regularly. Like, every day…. And that number is probably higher.”
Cannabis is not on the NHL’s list of banned substances because it isn’t considered performance-enhancing. But that doesn’t mean it’s officially condoned. It is one of many drugs players are tested for under the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, run jointly by the NHL and NHLPA.
According to Cote, a player who tests positive for a hard “street drug” such as ecstasy or cocaine will likely have to enter the league substance-abuse program for about a month. But a player who tests positive for THC, the primary intoxicant obtained from cannabis, will only receive a call. Either way, the test results aren’t revealed publicly, whereas a positive result for performance-enhancing drugs would be.
Playing hockey stoned is not advisable, although it seems likely that there are some NHL players that may indulge before games. For players like Riley though, it is more about soothing chronic pain and relaxing. Do you think other professional sports should be as relaxed as the NHL about their marijuana policies?