According to Riley Cote, a former NHL tough guy who amassed 411 career penalty minutes to just seven career points with the Philadelphia Flyers, at least half of the current NHL roster is smoking marijuana on a regular basis.
Cote, who played in 156 NHL games while bouncing between different minor hockey leagues, said in an interview with MacLean’s magazine that many players are using the drug to manage pain or anxiety, and a lot of them use it every single day. It’s a situation that Cote knows well, as he admitted to using pot regularly during his playing days.
“I’d quietly use it as an ally of mine. It helped me manage anxiety [and] pain,” Cote said. “There was no physical addiction. It just made me feel better.”
He added that marijuana was a better coping mechanism than alcohol or pain killers, which can lead to stints in rehab and other addiction problems.
“Good people break bad laws, I guess,” he continued. “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.”
It should be pointed out that Cote currently works with the Hemp Heals Foundation (which is his own project), an organization trying to raise awareness and remove the stigma surrounding medical marijuana.
The NHL does have a drug testing policy, but it’s exclusively for performance enhancing drugs. It does not test for “drugs of abuse” or “recreational drugs” like cocaine or marijuana. Cote’s numbers are likely exaggerated, but it stands to reason that there are still at least a few dozen regular weed users on NHL rosters right now. Cote points out that marijuana is often a more effective (and less harmful) medication than some of the alternatives.
In the NHL, Cote knew other enforcers who would lay awake the night before games, dripping in sweat, worrying about their next fight. Many, he added, would turn to alcohol as a coping tool. But Cote says his cannabis use helped temper those anxieties.
“We’re not selling the silver-bullet, magical cure for all,” he says. “[Cannabis] is a tool and it needs to be treated with respect…. It’s all about increasing quality of life. It’s about helping these guys wake up the next morning, where they can feel functional enough, good enough, [that] they can enjoy their family and not worry about the pain and anxiety — that vicious cycle that generally leads to mental health issues.”
Cote isn’t the only athlete trying to popularize medical marijuana as a legit treatment option. UFC fighter Nick Diaz openly speaks about CBD (cannabidoil) as a useful substance for MMA fighters, and many ex-NFL athletes are using their sport to move away from prescribing narcotic painkillers and explore the benefits of medical marijuana.