Why the Winnipeg Jets Should Be Concerned About the Future of Dustin Byfuglien

Adam Graham@@adam_grahamAnalyst IISeptember 25, 2011

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 30:  (EDITORS NOTE: A special effects camera filter was used for this image.) Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers poses for a portrait before the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

When Dustin Byfuglien was arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated, the reactions varied around the NHL. Fans of Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets were embarrassed and disappointed by his actions, while other fans that couldn't care less about Byfuglien laughed at his stupidity and the fact that he tipped the scales at nearly 290 pounds at the police station.

However, neither Byfuglien’s weight nor his stupidity of operating a boat while being under the influence is reason for the Jets organization and their fans to be worried.

First of all, Byfuglien has always been a heavy guy and appears to have the type of body that can both gain and shed weight quickly. The incident took place in the offseason and Byfuglien has since dropped to 266 pounds, which is a comfortable playing weight for a man of his build. Byfuglien’s willingness to dump that extra weight in a short time also shows that he’s motivated, which was something he was questioned about earlier in his career.

As far as the boating charges are concerned, people exercise poor judgement all the time. I’m not trying to down play the seriousness of boating while under the influence of any substance, but it’s not the first time an athlete has made this type of mistake and it won’t be the last. Fortunately for most of those athletes, they generally learn from their mistakes and don’t let them negatively impact their performance. 

However, there is one aspect of the recent charges against Byfuglien that should be concerning to the Jets and anyone else that cares about the Minneapolis native. It’s an issue we’ve heard about before regarding NHL players and its consequences can be far worse than any law-related punishment.

Byfuglien was under the influence of a number of supplements, including a muscle relaxer that he couldn’t remember the name of. According to the police report, Byfuglien admitted that he takes supplements from 16 or 17 different bottles a day. Doesn’t that sound like a serious substance-abuse problem? At the very least, Byfuglien needs to manage his pain better if he’s taking that many supplements just to cope with the physical toll of playing in the NHL.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that mixing that many drugs can be dangerous, especially if one doesn’t know enough about them to even learn their names. Not to mention the fact that Byfuglien was mixing those drugs with alcohol before he was arrested.

Yes, he easily passed a breathalyser with a blood-alcohol level of just .031 percent, but mixing even small amounts of alcohol with that many mysterious supplements can be potentially lethal. Just ask the family of Derek Boogaard, whose death back in May was revealed to be due to a mix of alcohol and pain killers.

Boogaard was involved with the NHL and the NHLPA’s substance-abuse program before his death and maybe that’s something Byfuglien should think about as well. I’m not trying to play the role of Byfuglien’s physician or therapist, but it doesn’t take someone in either of those professions to realize he has a problem. It may be a problem that is more common than you think among current NHL players, but that doesn’t make it right.

Byfuglien also refused to provide a blood or urine sample at the police station, which is an automatic offense and might lead to speculation that maybe there were recreational drugs in his system as well.

Of course, we’ll never know exactly what Dustin Byfuglien consumed on August 31. What we do know is that he takes a lot of supplements he knows very little about and apparently doesn’t exercise very good judgement while taking them.

Fortunately for Byfuglien, the worst thing that’s happened to him involving his supplements so far is an arrest and the charges he received last week. That might sound serious at first, but considering what happened to Boogaard just a few months ago, it could get even worse for Byfuglien if he’s not careful.


Twitter: @adam_graham