NHL President John Ziegler suspended Edmonton goaltender Grant Fuhr for a year Thursday for using drugs, calling Fuhr's conduct "dishonorable and against the welfare of the league."
But Ziegler also provided for reinstatement as early as next February, should Fuhr meet certain conduct requirements. And the NHL president gave the Oilers a chance to challenge his decision.
"This has indeed been a most sad case," Ziegler said in a prepared statement. "Mr. Fuhr has been an all-star player for most of his career. He admits he has made a major mistake and is working hard to redeem."
In his statement, Ziegler said Fuhr, 28, used "cocaine, an illegal drug" for about six to seven years before August, 1989.
"This use was sporadic, sometimes 'bingeful,' but never at an addictive level," Ziegler said.
During that time frame, the Oilers won four Stanley Cups and Fuhr was considered one of the league's best goaltenders.
Fuhr was not available for comment, but Oiler General Manager Glen Sather didn't agree with Ziegler's decision.
"I think it was much too harsh," he said, but added the Oilers will not appeal the decision because "it would be a waste of time to appeal."
Sather said Fuhr, who has been in counseling, was "devastated" by the decision.
"He had spent a long time trying to get himself straightened out. I told him to remain positive and think of Ziegler also said he had proof that Fuhr had not used any illegal drug "for over one year."
"I have given consideration to the fact that he has been drug-free for 12 months," Ziegler said. "I have given weight to the fact that he has come forward and is facing this matter head on."
But Ziegler also said that he considered the long period of Fuhr's substance abuse.
"Mr. Fuhr's actions were intentional and were in defiance of (NHL) policy," Ziegler said. "He must suffer the consequences."
Ziegler said during Fuhr's suspension he could "participate, at his club's discretion, in all training and practice sessions.
Ziegler's ruling came one day after a hearing was held in Toronto for Fuhr, who had been suspended after his drug use became public in a newspaper story on Aug. 31.
The story, quoting several sources, including Fuhr's ex-wife, reported he used cocaine since 1983 or 1984 and that he failed a private drug test and spent two weeks in a Florida treatment center in August, 1989.