The NHL is taking a lot of hits this season. In addition to Kyle Beach’s explosive, horrific claims regarding sexual abuse in the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner had some choice words for head coach Alain Vigneault and several coaches in the league.
Lehner has, for a long time, been very outspoken regarding his criticisms of the league. He is openly bipolar, and discusses the Kyle Beach case openly with reporters. He even told TSN that he is doing everything for Beach, who has been very open about his struggles since the 2010 incident.
In 2018, reports revealed that Lehner overcame addiction and substance abuse, and he revealed his struggles with bipolar disorder.
Recently, though, Robin Lehner shook the NHL world again. This time, he demanded more change. He leveled heavy accusations against the NHL, suggesting that many coaches give players painkillers and other pills without permission from a doctor. His tweets weren’t so subtle, and he specifically targeted Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault as one of the “dinosaurs” of the league.
His accusations spurred a sit down with the league, a conversation that Lehner said “encouraged” him. While we’re still waiting to see what comes of these conversations, it’s hard not to think back to a time when accusations like these went virtually unnoticed by the league.
Last September, TSN released an original, 30-minute documentary called The Problem of Pain, in which several NHL players outlined and specifically detailed the use of painkillers across the NHL, and the lack of information that is given to players when they are treated with the pills. The claims, though predating Robin Lehner’s recent accusation, support him.
Ryan Kesler supports allegations from Robin Lehner
Former player and Selke Trophy winner Ryan Kesler said in the documentary that extended use of painkillers throughout his time as part of the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks organization led to his digestive issues. Kesler has battled chronic hip problems late in his career, and frequently took Toradol, which is a drug not suitable–or approved–for long-term use. “I never wanted to hurt the team, so I knew I had to play. To play, you have to take painkillers,” he said in the video.
In 2015, Ryan Kesler developed colitis, a digestive issue that doctors linked back to his extended Toradol use. He says he was not aware of the side effects of Toradol.
“I had holes in my colon and ulcers, and basically my whole intestines went into spasm. It’s very unpleasant. You’ve gotta go to the bathroom 30-40 times a day. And when you do go to the bathroom, it’s pure blood. It depletes you. It’s terrible. And it’s all because I wasn’t made aware of what this drug could potentially do to me,” he told TSN.
He said that his colitis led to Crohn’s Disease which, again, was not something he had knowledge of. “I never knew what it could do to me. Or the side effects. I feel like if I can talk about the dangers about it, it’ll help everybody,” Ryan Kesler said.
“A lot of this, in terms of accountability and responsibly, comes down to team trainers and team doctors,” documentary creator Rick Westhead said. “If you believe what these players are telling us, how can it be that they’re being given prescription medication that you’re not supposed to take more than five days in a row for a full season and not telling them what could happen if you do this?”
A year later, Robin Lehner is again shining a light on painkiller use and abuse in the NHL. With evidence from both Lehner and Ryan Kesler, the NHL needs to take the opportunity to listen–and reform.