SPORTS: Cannabis, eh?

A Look at the National Hockey League’s Progressive Position on Cannabis Use and One Player's Mission to Spread Awareness


Former Philadelphia Flyer turned cannabis advocate, Riley Cote (Source: Yahoo Sports)

In honor of Canada legalizing Cannabis in July of this year, I think it is our responsibility as cannabis-loving Americans to grab a tall cold Molson and watch some hockey this winter. The National Hockey League is the only major professional sports league that does not list cannabis on their banned substance list. So that means next time you head into a dispensary, make sure you got some stuff for a NHL player to sign. Just don’t go up to every person missing teeth and ask them to sign your shirt.

Riley Cote was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as most kids in Canada, he wanted to play professional hockey…and he did. He played for the Philadelphia Flyers for the better part of 8 seasons, but it is his life outside of the NHL that peaked our interest. Not only is Mr. Cote a huge proponent of cannabis but he has gone on record saying nearly half the guys he played with or against smoked weed. Fuckin’ A! This was way before perceptions had shifted greatly after Colorado and Washington legalized recreational cannabis. In fact, you could argue that professional hockey players chill as fuck.

For the rest of the professional sports community you are far better off taking a handful of painkillers or doing a couple lines of coke. The drug testing process in the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) all test for THC in minuscule levels. Shockingly, in the NFL’s case, their THC levels are lower than the Olympic Committee’s. Think about that load of horseshit for a second: “you want me to get hit by a guy weighing 300 pounds as he moves at the speed of a Hyundai, but I can’t get high afterwards?” Kiss my ass. While it’s hard to find anything to like about the NFL these days (What the fuck constitutes a catch?), barbaric rules about player safety seems like a really bad idea. But what the hell do I know? Baseball and basketball do test for cannabis but are much more lenient and allow for some flexibility. It is still astonishing that the NHL is still the only one that seems to be rational about this.

Where the NHL gets it right is that it doesn’t include cannabis as a banned substance, but it does show up on drug tests for other various drugs; drugs that many athletes will use instead of cannabis. If a player in the National Hockey League smokes a joint and tests positive for THC – nothing happens. Wouldn’t that be nice? Instead of getting fired for smoking weed, you just do your work like a normal person. Beyond that, lets say a player does test positive. The NHL – in the most Canadian thing ever – will call a player after multiple hot tests for cannabis and just check on them to make sure they are doing alright. You gotta love a sport where the guy on the ice with one tooth is gonna knock the snot out of someone for fun, but afterwards gets a call from the league just to make sure he’s happy!

Riley Cote has since retired from hockey and has started a non-profit organization (Hemp Heals) that aims to help victims of multiple sclerosis (MS) and former athletes find something for their symptoms and aching bodies instead of the pharmaceuticals that are common place. As Canada prepares to go green, Riley Cote and the rest of the NHL is leading the way on how to treat your athletes the right way. Allowing players to make decisions on what they can take or use to help mitigate the pain seems like the easiest thing to allow your employees to do. But unfortunately for athletes of other major sports, they are still forced to try their hands at opioids. So I say we all get really high and watch some hockey this year!

Riley Cote founded the Hemp Heals foundation in 2011 (Source: Civilized Life)