Beyond the mess that has become the Phoenix Coyotes, away from the rumblings that more of those struggling franchise dominoes are about to fall across the southern USA comes another problem for the Commissioner that may give the NHL as black an eye as the ever popular financial troubles do.
Richard Thomas, and his wife, Sandra Thomas, of Lakeland, Florida were arrested after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the local police raided their home and found $200,000 worth of drugs, part of a supply which if the stories coming out of the USA are proven correct could very well have been destined for some members of either the Washington Nationals baseball team or the Washington Capitals hockey team.
In the early moments of this investigation, the Capitals have issued a statement which says that they have no knowledge of “any aspect of this allegation.”. The NHL was quick to add however, that they planned to conduct a complete investigation into the charges.
For the most part, hockey's boosters have tried to portray the league as somehow immune from the sordid world of the steroid boosters, just featuring good strong lads who work out hard, play hard and probably do nothing recreational other than a few pops with the boys after the game.
It's a quaint illusion, but one that probably isn't reasonable in these times of performance enhancement. While the issue of steroid abuse probably isn't in the same scale as made famous by baseball and professional football, the NHL has a pretty spotty record when it comes to testing and watching over its players.
Despite Gary Bettman's time in the spotlight with the other big sports leaders last year with the US Congress, the league's dedication towards the topic of steroids has been more pedestrian, than determined over the years.
That is what makes it ripe for the low lifes and bottom feeders to get a hold on some of hockey's players who may feel that they need an extra edge to hang on, maybe introduce a few of his team mates to his "friend" and from there the thing of trouble is made.
Eventually, as proven in Florida, the bad guys get caught, they look to save themselves and in the course of that process they will throw out as many names as possible, some maybe fanciful others caught dead to rights. Suspicion will replace fact in a good many cases, and in the fallout will come a shadow on the game.
If the Florida couple prove to be nothing more than a pair of drowning souls looking for a lifeline, then the NHL will have dodged a bullet. Perhaps using it as a warning to get a better handle on what their member teams are doing towards the goal of a clean sport.
If the naming of the names however brings out some unwanted news of some of the stars of the game, perhaps going beyond Washington, then Mr. Bettman's year from hell will only be getting worse, much worse than even he must surely have thought possible.
The NHL has always wanted to be considered one of the big four of sports in America, however we suspect that this wasn't quite what they had in mind in their quest for that goal!
National Post-- Steroids in hockey? It's inevitable
Toronto Star-- NHL must get serious about steroids
Globe and Mail-- Watch the NHL turtle
New York Daily News-- Steroid suspect Richard Thomas juiced to 'be like' Arnold Schwarzenegger
Washington Post-- Capitals, Nats Are Named in Drug Bust
Washington Times-- DC finds itself entering the steroids zone
Miami Herald-- Bond raised for Fla. man facing steroid charges
Sports Illustrated-- NHL open to question on steroids issue, more notes
Picture above from the Washington Times website