Pro hockey is hard. Really, really hard. Even if nobody hits you, the sheer level of fitness and endurance needed to skate (and skate well) for that long is beyond the reach of most people. And then there’s the hitting. Oh god, the hitting. Try getting knocked onto a sheet of ice by someone coming at you at about 20 miles per hour, then see if you ever want to do that again. You’d probably say no.
So with the intense physical demands of the sport comes equally intense pain afterward, and it’s well-known that one of the main benefits of steroids and HGH is the increased recuperative ability of the body; you get better faster. But there are also sufficient drawbacks (see Alzado, Lyle) that they’re illegal and strictly monitored by every major sport. Except if it’s the playoffs, in which case the NHL just says, “whatever!” The COLUMBUS DISPATCH has the incredible details:
For all the prices paid to hoist the Stanley Cup, a fear of being caught taking banned substances is not among them.
The NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, enacted three years ago by the league and players union, does not permit testing during the playoffs and off-season. It’s a five-month window in which the only enforcement against doping is the honor system.
Even the players support a year-round testing program, according to the article; that stands in contrast to the reasoning behind the lack of testing given when the policy was enacted just three years ago, when they decided not to conduct tests during the playoffs “to avoid distractions.” No word on why the league also doesn’t test during the entire offseason; perhaps the players will be too focused on vacationing to be distracted.
Whether anyone’s taking advantage of the loophole remains a mystery, obviously; according to a survey of the Columbus Blue Jackets, none of the players whatsoever think the league has a doping problem, and there aren’t any even apocryphal rumors of use out there. We have a bit of a theory as to why: the hockey uniforms.
Allow us to explain.
Here, narcissism is essentially wasted: none of the “show” muscles are visible. For obvious, ice- and skate-based reasons, there is no exposed skin on their arms, nor do their uniforms closely reflect their body type; conversely, for example, you can look at Dwight Howard when he’s in uniform and know that he’s unbelievably jacked.
Oh, and we picked that picture for a reason. That’s Chris Chelios, workout warrior. He’s the hardest exerciser in the entire league, to the point that he rides an exercise bike in a sauna for 45 minutes (and he’s in his freaking 40s). But looking at him, all you see is the same amorphous mass that all hockey players resemble.
So sure, maybe the hockey players are clean. But the league shouldn’t be holding the door open and out-and-out daring them to start abusing PEDs during the playoffs and offseason, and that’s essentially what this rule does.