#63 – The Cult(ure) of Hockey, Part Five – Shooting (up) for Success!

English Canadian hockey fans have a hard time admitting that anything is wrong with the NHL.

Of course, like any professional sporting league, the National Hockey League has to worry about the image of The Game in order for it to matter. Other sports, like baseball, have reeled under the weight of steroid use and struggled to adapt to it. Hockey would rather just not really check for performace-enhancing drugs. Here’s the actual wording from the NHL:

“Per the agreement, every NHL player will be subject to up to two “no-notice” tests every year, with at least one such test to be conducted on a team-wide basis. Players will be subject to “no-notice” testing at any time.”

Now, this doesn’t seem too stupid – but then you get the players’ claims that post-season drug testing is “distracting”. Just ask Canadian Grit and Heart factory Sydney Crosby, who argued against changing the wording that used to give players a guaranteed five-month window of no-testing. The gloriously-named Dick Pound (yes, actually – Dick Pound is probably my favorite thing about sports solely because of that name) is suspicious that the NHL is basically doing its drug-tests in-house. But he must be lying – 33 years in the business at the IOC just means that you’re not Canadian enough to judge players!

Pound also identifies a culture of extreme secrecy in the locker room and speaks to parallels between the growing violence of professional hockey and ‘roid rage. The topic has elicited “shut up” anti-intellectual responses from the NHL’s contract hockeymans, which totally seals the question for Canadians. People whose jobs depend on their team not getting dinged for criminal behavior are probably not the best people to ask as to whether team members are in fact doing that criminal behavior. Even then, the players’ insistence that they not test during the off-season is pretty suspect, given that some PEDS can be flushed out of the body in time for the NHL pre-season. Just don’t look, guys! That always works!

To recap – Georges Laraque, a 700-game veteran, and Dick Pound, a 33-year veteran of the IOC speak in common about a pervasive problem in the NHL. Dick Pound threw the hammer down ten years ago in 2005 in speaking to this problem, and the NHL basically called him a liar then. Rather than hammering the problem out like baseball is trying to, the NHL continues to effectively say that anyone who questions the doping policy is an idiot and just “shooting their mouth off”. When a vested interest exists to maintain that drugs aren’t used in a league and a guy who is specfically trained to find people who use drugs on teams says the same thing as a veteran of the game, the obvious response is to say that both are liars and frauds trying to ruin Canada’s Game.

Grit and Heart are the only performance-enhancing drugs Canada’s hockeymans need, right?

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