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NHL: Legal pot in Canada won’t affect league policy

NHL: Legal pot in Canada won’t affect league policy
As Flyers enforcer Riley Cote, right, took and delivered countless punches over more than a decade of junior and pro hockey, he was eager to avoid painkillers. The enforcer was introduced to marijuana as a healing mechanism early on, and it resonated for him. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Now a handful of years into retirement from more than a decade of junior and pro hockey, former enforcer Riley Cote is a proponent of cannabis and its oils as an alternative to more addictive drugs commonly used by athletes to play through pain. Marijuana can be detected in a person's system for more than 30 days, is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency without a specific therapeutic use exemption and is illegal in much of the United States.

Canada on Wednesday will become the largest country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana. That means it will be available under the law in seven more NHL cities (it's been legal to adults in Denver since 2012). The move is a step forward for those who, like Cote, believe marijuana has been stigmatized and should be accepted as a form of treatment.

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“It was so tainted for a long time,” Ottawa Senators forward Matt Duchene said. “And now people are starting to learn a little bit more about it and there is definitely some positive uses to different elements of it.”

The NHL and NHL Players' Association plan no changes to their joint drug-testing policy, under which players are not punished for positive marijuana tests. It is the most lenient approach to cannabis by any major North American professional sports league.

“The Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health Program for decades has been educating players on using drugs, legal or illegal,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “That process will continue and we will consider what changes, if any, in our program have to be made. But right now, we think based on the educational level and what we do test for and how we test, at least for the time being, we're comfortable with where we are.”

Etc.

Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson was suspended two games without pay Monday for an incident early in the third period of a game against Vancouver during the weekend. Matheson was punished for interference and unsportsmanlike conduct for his hit on Canucks rookie forward Elias Pettersson at 4:47 of the third in Vancouver’s 3-2 win Saturday night. The Canucks announced earlier Monday that Pettersson was in concussion protocol. ...

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz will miss the next four months because of a fractured left leg. Schultz injured the leg in the first period of a shootout loss to Montreal on Saturday after getting tangled up with Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec. The team says Schultz underwent surgery Sunday and will be out until February. ...

The Colorado Avalanche have claimed center Marko Dano off waivers from Winnipeg. The 23-year-old played in 23 games for the Jets last season with two goals and an assist. He was a first-round pick of Columbus in 2013. ...

The Vancouver Canucks said center Jay Beagle is out six weeks with a broken forearm.

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