Bettman responds to ‘growing’ NHL cocaine problem

Vancouver Canucks star Henrik Sedin comments on the report of cocaine use by NHL players and the tests being done to detect it.

Commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledges there has been increased cocaine usage among National Hockey League players.

Responding to a report earlier this week that quoted deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Bettman told Hockey Central at Noon Wednesday that cocaine “appears to be a small issue and growing” in the NHL.

“I think there’s some usage. It’s not representative of an overwhelming number of our players. We’re in a dialogue with the Players’ Association to address it,” Bettman said during the TV/radio appearance. “My interest is not to go around punishing people. My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

Bettman said the league must work together with the NHLPA to increase education, counselling and testing in effort to stop the trend and get rid of the issue all together.

The NHL and the PA offer a substance abuse program to players dealing with issues such as cocaine. Bettman explained that “survey testing” is done to gauge the use of non-performance-enchancing drug use among players, but the league does not know the names of players who test positive for recreational drugs.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.

“The best way to get it to stop is to make clear you shouldn’t do it. And if you are doing it, you should stop.”

Daniel Sedin, among others, said this week that he would be in favour of more testing.

Andrew Ference said increased cocaine use is a societal issue.

“Hockey players are just human beings,” Ference told reporters. “To bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s not out there is pretty stupid, but I don’t think anybody in here is doing that.

“Certain people have an issue with it, a problem with it, and some of them play hockey. Some of them don’t.”

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