Riley Cote was a staple of the NHL for eight seasons. Originally entering the league in 2002 as an undrafted free agent, the left-winger provided the league with a Rocky-esque underdog story for the ages.
Now, however, the retired Cote looks to inspire others, not through his gritty, unorthodox play style, but through an entirely different medium—cannabis advocation.
Riley Cote Encourages Medical Marijuana Use In Hockey
It’s no secret that the rough and tumble sport of hockey is one of the most physically taxing forms of entertainment in the sporting world. That’s why it should come as no surprise that Cote, who was known as an enforcer-type during his playing days with the Philadelphia Flyers (he only scored one career goal, while racking up 50 fights and 411 penalty minutes), is such a staunch supporter of cannabis within the NHL.
On Monday, the 36-year-old Cote spoke to a group of NHL alumni regarding the possibility of allowing cannabis in the sport.
Per CBC Toronto, Cote, while speaking with his advocate group Athletes for CARE, explained that medical marijuana could be a much healthier alternative to traditional medications like opioid painkillers—a sentiment shared by many professional athletes over the years.
“Traditionally, especially in sports, it’s always been with destructive substances like alcohol, opioids, sleeping pills,” Cote said. “I’m all about increasing quality of life and giving guys an alternative to traditional protocols.”
Cote admitted he had sustained many concussions over his eight years in the league—which, by hockey standards, isn’t necessarily a long career. While his playing style certainly can be attributed to his plethora of injuries, it’s also in the nature of the game to withstand significant physical punishment.
Cote has said he’s been using cannabis to cope with his injuries since his playing days.
“I’d quietly use it as an ally of mine. It helped me manage anxiety pain,” he said in a November interview with Sports Net. “There was no physical addiction. It just made me feel better.”
Although cannabis is considered a banned substance by the NHL, the league actually remains pretty lax when it comes to marijuana rules. So much so, that Cote cannot recall a single player that has been thrown in a substance-abuse program from solely smoking weed.
“Nobody I’ve heard of has tested positive strictly for THC and been thrown in the substance-abuse program,” Cote said.
This, obviously, differs from a league like the NFL, which employs one of the strictest set of cannabis rules in all of the professional sports. One time caught smoking pot in the NFL will result in a mandatory admission into the league’s substance abuse program. Any additional mishaps can result in a variety of suspensions.
From NHL Bully To Medical Marijuana Advocate
Since his retirement, Riley Cote has been one of loudest voices for cannabis in sports. He founded his own Hemp advocate group, Hemp Heals Foundation, shortly after retiring in 2010, and is also part of the aforementioned Athletes for Care, alongside other notable ex-athletes like Eben Britton, Jim McMahon, Jake Plummer, Eugene Monroe and former Pistons and Bulls forward John Salley, who also has his own cannabis brand.
While the NHL says it has no plans in adjusting its marijuana policy ahead of Canada’s October 17th legalization of recreational marijuana, Cote believes his message still resonates.
“It’s changing the conversation when it comes to the recovery process,” Cote said to CBC Toronto.