NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested the apparent increased use of cocaine among players is a phase a small cluster of individuals are going through and is not indicative of a major problem.
TSN's Rick Westhead reported what Daly said on the matter Monday, as the NHL has begun negotiations with the NHL Players Association to add cocaine to the league's list of banned substances to monitor:
The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they're going up. 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 naive 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.
Matthew Cauz of TSN 1050 weighed in on Monday's report:
Per Westhead, under the current collective bargaining agreement, a maximum of 60 players can undergo offseason drug testing. The league took full advantage of that, but to determine whether Daly's assertions are correct, more players will likely have to be tested to have an appropriate sample size.
The offseason seems like the time when players may turn to drug use without the daily obligations the regular season brings about. Testing goes up during the season, as every individual is tested twice. A third of the 2,400 urine samples collected annually are analyzed in more detail for traces of drugs.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr will have to speak to the players and address the matter. Perhaps arriving at a solution that way won't prompt any major changes to the NHL's substance abuse and behavioral health program.
But if rumors of the NHL's alleged cocaine problem persist, the NHL and the NHL Players Association will have no choice but to come up with a definitive solution. That likely means reworking and expanding the drug testing policy.