F Roberts Lipsbergs (Seattle, 2012-15) has been assigned on loan by Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL) to Liepaja (Latvia, Optibet Liga). This season, with Dinamo, he was pointless in nine games, while averaging 8:36 TOI per game.
A few thoughts on the WHL and cannabis, with recreational marijuana having become legal in Canada a couple of weeks ago . . .
The CHL, the umbrella under which the three major junior leagues operate, works under the anti-doping policy established by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). Cannabis remains a banned substance under that policy, as it has been since the CHL adopted the policy in 2008.
The CCES uses a list of banned substances that originates with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Interestingly, while WADA has cannabis listed as a performance-enhancing drug, the CCES doesn’t agree that it should be there.
“The CCES, to be completely frank, has always argued that marijuana should not be on the list,” CCES president Paul Melia told CBC In June. “We don’t believe there is sufficient scientific evidence supporting its performance-enhancing benefits.”
No matter, because it is a banned substance as far as the CHL is concerned, and you are going to hear the word ‘education’ over and over again.
“That policy is very clear for the players — they cannot participate in any use of cannabis or other performance-enhancing drugs,” Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has said. “Consequently, it is incumbent on us to make sure we have a very effective education program to make sure the players are aware of that, first of all, and to really help promote a healthy lifestyle.”
There is an online course for WHL players, that includes video and a test based on comprehension. There also is a code of ethics that must be signed by players and coaches.
The CHL also has partnered with Health Canada on what is called #FocusedOn, a program that aims to educate players, coaches, management people, parents and others about cannabis.
If you are wondering, a first positive test will draw a warning. Suspensions will accompany further positive tests. Testing is conducted, without warning, after regular-season games, playoff games or any of the special events such as the Top Prospects game, a Canada-Russia game, or a Memorial Cup game.
Gare Joyce wrote an interesting piece for sportsnet.ca on the subject of the NHL and marijuana. The bulk of the story involved Joyce’s speaking with a former NHL player who now works in an NHL team’s front office.
Among other things, the ex-player told him: “I’d say right now, 60 to 70 per cent of the players in the league smoke marijuana. No doubt there are more players now using marijuana regularly than when I first came into the league. And I think there’ll be a greater awareness and understanding and acceptance (of marijuana use).”
That story is right here.
It stands to reason that there are WHL players using recreational marijuana. With it now being legal in Canada, chances are good that there will be more players at least experimenting with it.
One former WHL insider, when asked about marijuana use on today’s teams, told Taking Note that it “would not surprise me at all if it was in the 40-50 per cent range.”
(Recreational marijuana also is legal in the states of Oregon and Washington, but you must be 21 years of age in order to use it. That age is 19 in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C., and 18 in Alberta.)
Some figures from Health Canada, all which are from prior to legalization . . . “12 per cent of Canadians reported using it at least once in 2015, according to the latest Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. That rate is even higher for young people, with usage as high as 21 per cent among youth, aged 15 to 19, and 30 per cent among young adults, aged 20 to 24.”
The area that may end up causing the most headaches for the WHL involves medical marijuana and especially cannabis-based products.
One parent with a son in minor hockey has told Taking Note that at least some midget-aged players are using cannabis-based creams — likely cannabidiol (CBD) without tetrahydrocannabinol (TTC) — in a search for pain relief, usually on joints like knees and hips.
The parent said this especially occurs when these teams play multiple games in compressed time periods on weekends. The parent also said that this is happening, at least in some instances, with parental approval and encouragement from coaches.
Defenceman Brooks Orpik of the Washington Capitals talked to the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell about a a memo that went from the NHL to its teams on legalization.
“I think they were nervous about guys bringing it across the border,” Orpik said, “because it’s still illegal (in the U.S.) and CBD oil, without the THC in it, is getting big, especially among athletes for pain management and sleep and stuff.”
As Pell explained, “CBD . . . is a cannabis extract. Unlike THC, another marijuana compound, it doesn’t make you high or intoxicated.”
The parent who spoke with Taking Note also admitted to having concerns about how long cannabis-based cream might stay in a player’s system, and also about, as Orpik noted, it being illegal in the U.S.
“What happens,” the parent wondered, “if a (young player) eligible for an NCAA scholarship gets caught taking cream across the border into the U.S.?”
For that matter, what would happen were a WHL player to find himself in that situation?
But you should know that the WHL says it is well aware of the medical side of all this.
“There is a medicinal application to the product,” Robison told Andrew McCormack of discovermoosejaw.com, “we’re very aware of that, as our medical staffs and training staffs are aware of that, and there is an ability within our national anti-doping program to get a therapeutic exemption should a player require that. It has to be accompanied by clear evidence from their doctor that this is something that’s required as opposed to something that might be used on a more recreational basis or casual basis from time to time.”
MONDAY NIGHT NOTES:
It appears that F Michael Rasmussen won’t be back with the Tri-City Americans. The Detroit Red Wings have told Rasmussen that he will be staying in the NHL and, in fact, he is scheduled to play his 10th regular-season game tonight against the host Columbus Blue Jackets. . . . When a junior-eligible player gets into his 10th game it means the first year of his entry-level contract begins, something that’s important down the road when it comes to qualifying for free agency. . . . Rasmussen, the ninth overall selection in the NHL’s 2017 draft, has one assist in his first nine games, while averaging 12 minutes 39 seconds of ice time per game. . . . Rasmussen had 31 goals and 28 assists in 47 regular-season games with the Americans last season, then added 33 points, 16 of them goals, in 14 playoff games. In 161 career regular-season games, he put up 157 points, including 81 goals.
The Everett Silvertips have acquired G Max Palaga, 18, from the Kamloops Blazers, giving up a sixth-round selection in the 2020 WHL bantam draft in the exchange. . . . Palaga, who is from Kamloops, got into 17 games with the Blazers last season, going 5-7-1, 3.71, .875. . . . The Blazers released him earlier this season and he has been with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. He was 2-2-1, 1.77, .943 in five games with Vernon. . . . In Everett, Palaga will back up Dustin Wolf, 17. . . . Blake Lyda, who had been backing up, suffered an undisclosed injury during a morning skate on Oct. 12 and is expected to be sideline for at least another month. . . . With Lyda out, the Silvertips added Danton Belluk to their roster for their East Division trip that concluded Saturday. Belluk has since returned to the midget AAA Eastman Selects. . . .
Meanwhile, the Blazers have added G Rayce Ramsay, 17, to their roster where he will back up Dylan Ferguson, while Dylan Garand, 16, is at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Quispamsis and Saint John, N.B. . . . Ramsay, from Saskatoon, has been playing with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos, going 4-2-0, 3.03, .923.
The Kootenay Ice has returned G Will Gurski to the Shawnigan Lake School’s midget prep team. Gurski, 16, was brought in prior to the weekend. He practised with the Ice and backed up Duncan McGovern in one game with Jesse Makaj scratched. . . . Gurski, from Duncan, B.C., was a fourth-round pick in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft.