Former hockey enforcer Andrei Nazarov has told the Russian sports newspaper Sport-Express that steroid use is universal among the National Hockey League’s tough guys and that a majority of players are using some kind of drugs to help them hang on to lucrative jobs.
Here’s my thought on this, based on our working for the IHL’s Spiders one year, and having gotten to know a few players, team officials, doctors, etc, etc, etc around the NHL over the years.
Unless things have changed massively in the last 3-4 years, walk into any NHL locker room and yell “DEA!”, and you won’t see many players running to flush stuff down the loo. Drugs ARE very common in the locker rooms — but the drug most NHLers use is Sudafed. Maybe not the dose you and I use, but it’s Sudafed (with coffee. lots of coffee). It gives them a mild buzz and they’ll tell you it helps their concentration (and breathing).
It’s also an interesting problem around the olympics, since Sudafed’s a banned substance in the Olympics for just the reasons NHLers use it.
To me, this is basically a big non-issue. Which is not to say there aren’t users. Wanna guess who’s used steroids in their career? grab a guy’s rookie card, and grab a guy’s current card. Serious steroid use causes physiological changes to the face — and while those changes are gradual, if you look at a good “before” and “after” picture, you can start making intelligent guesses. I could name a few of my favorite candidates, but that’s not proof (but it can be illuminating).
There are also players who will use substances like HGH or steroids for s limited period of time under some circumstances. One legitimate (but still illegal) reason to use steroids is that steroids DO encourage faster healing of injuries. There are players who WILL run the risk of using steroids to get back on the ice faster (some players use HGH for he same reason, but the evidence that this really helps is less proven). The other group where limited steroid use is more common is younger players — the “he needs to bulk up over the summer” thing. Most guys will spend that first summer in the weight room, and some of those will try to help out the process.
Whether they juice or not, I think this focus on strength gain is one reason so many players have a bad sophomore year; if you’re not really careful, you might put that upper body strength on, but cost yourself skating speed and flexibility. It’s way too easy to get the body out of balance if you push too hard, too fast (and that happens without steroids. If you do a six week cycle and boost things a bit, it’s even easier to play “beef cow” into the season before getting things back in balance.
Steroids will be more common in the minors, as the players who are on the bubble, or looking for that edge, do whatever they think it’ll take to be able to make the jump — if you need steroids to go from being an AHL third liner to an NHL fourth liner, some guys will do it. (if you think about it, the primary factor that determines success as a pro athlete isn’t talent or brains (definitely not brains), but determination. A guy of lesser talent like, oh, a Jeff Odgers, will last a lot longer in the league than someone with huge talent who isn’t motivated (like Alex Daigle). And people who’s life goal is succeeeding at something will do whatever it takes to succeed, even if you or I think it’s silly or stupid. It’s all about motivation. (btw, before anything thinks otherwise, Jeff is one of those guys I think never would have touched this stuff. He just plain old outworked everyone)
To NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Nazarov sounds like a loose cannon.
Here’s a hint: Nazarov spent the bulk of his career in San Jose, where we got to watch him play. And he spent the bulk of his time in San Jose making fans (and coaches) wonder what he’d do next. He was a big guy, a powerful guy, but from what we’ve been told, a fairly intelligent and sensitive guy as well, who studied the game, worked his butt off and had much softer hands than people gave him credit for. But he came up through the Russian hockey system basically as a bruiser, and he had trouble understanding the “code” of fighting in the NHL (there was the head-butt incident, the spitting incident, the time where he grabbed Kyle McClaren by the hair, pulled his head back adn just whaled on him for a while, there was the… you get my point). He also, at times, thought he was a better hockey player than he was, and that led to conflicts. We finally gave him the nickname “dancing bear”, because of his tendency to figure skate through shifts. As someone who made it to the NHL as a bruiser with some talent, he really didn’t like to fight, and coaches had to keep pushing him to focus on his role (but when he did fight, he took no prisoners).
he’s no loose cannon like Link Gaetz or Jose Canseco. And he’s basically right. But not in the way Pound wants him to be right.
But anti-doping czar Richard Pound hopes that loose cannon is the start of a fusillade.
And Dick Pound is a weasel that has lost focus on what his purpose is, and his purpose is now more important than the things it’s trying to protect.
He’s also fighting a losing battle here, since more and more that testing is a failed technique, and people are staritng to realize it. All it catches are stupid people.