The NHL, Cocaine, Kuznetsov, and the Fans

News broke early Friday that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had suspended Capitals player Evgeny Kuznetsov from play for four years because of his use of the illegal drug cocaine. On May 31, 2019, following the emergence of a video of Kuznetsov sitting next to what appeared to be rows of cocaine, he issued the following statement: “I would like to address the video of me that appeared online on Monday. While I have never taken illegal drugs in my life and career, I would like to publicly apologize to the Capitals, my teammates, our fans and everyone else, for putting myself in a bad situation. This was a hard lesson for me to learn.

That may not have been a true statement after all, although other media outlets are reporting that he continues to deny use at the time of the video. (Wash Post) The news of the suspension shocked and disappointed many Caps fans. The story is still unfolding within the NHL as Kuzy is set to meet with Commissioner Gary Bettman. It is unlikely there will be any additional suspension by the NHL because the do not have a policy regarding the use of non-performance enhancing illegal drugs.

Where does that leave the Caps as they continue impromptu daily skates at MedStar IcePlex, of which Kuzy participated in prior to Friday’s breaking news? He will most likely be at training camp which begins September 12. The League has indicated that he is seeking help; however, as of now he is under no obligation to participate in a rehab program. Should he go that route it may delay his start at camp.

Any way you slice it- it is not a great start To the 2019/20 season for the promising top line center or for his team.

We are left wondering the extent of his use of cocaine and any other illegal substance. Was he using during the Caps regular and post season? Could that explain his unpredictable performance on the ice? Are there other players who might be in the same boat but it hasn’t come to light since the NHL doesn’t test? Does the NHL/NHL-PA need to rethink their policy? Many businesses that once tested for drugs have dropped the practice- save for those where impairment could lead to a dangerous accident.

From a personal perspective, we are disappointed. We ask a lot of our Caps players and after a while, many feel like friends. Kuzy has always been gracious to us. We have laughed at his silliness- especially when he has taunted us from the ice when we take his photo. Some fans have suggested he is a role model for up-and-coming young players. Still others find it to be a personal choice that has no importance regarding his play in the NHL.

We are concerned for Evgeny and his family. We have been on the losing side of someone fighting cocaine/crack addiction and we know it to be an insidious drug that can rapidly move from causal use to addiction. It pumps up the body and makes one believe they are invincible- for a little while. Overtime use of cocaine can slow your responses and distort your vision and ability to concentrate. It robs users of their true potential if they are unable to find help and walk away.

We are praying for the 27-year old Kuzy and his family, which includes a new baby boy born in June and a four-year old daughter. We know from our experience what stressful times like this can do to a family. Thankfully he has a family and good friends who have always supported him and hopefully will continue to do so.

The official press release from the Capitals and Kuznetsov:

“We are aware of the positive test result and related international sanction that has been imposed on Evgeny Kuznetsov. We are disappointed with this development and take this occurrence seriously. We understand that Evgeny has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program. In addition, we are committed to ensuring he has the necessary support required to work through this situation. We will remain in contact with the NHL as they determine the next steps. Because of the sensitive nature surrounding this matter, there will be no further comment from us at this time.”

Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has released the following statement:

“Recently, the IIHF notified me that, due to a positive test for a banned substance, I would be suspended from international competition for four years. I have made the decision to accept this penalty. Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in. Not being able to put that sweater on for four years is very hard to take. I have disappointed so many people that are important to me, including my family, teammates and friends. From the first day I took the ice in D.C., the Washington Capitals organization and our fans have been nothing but great to me and my family. I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward.”


Author: Maggie Marcum

Managing Editor for Friends in Cold Places.

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