NHL acknowledges number of players using cocaine is rising, Raffi Torres receives 41-game suspension, plus the latest on Brent Seabrook, Zdeno Chara, Jaromir Jagr, Brian Gionta and more. 

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged cocaine usage has increased among NHL players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged cocaine usage has increased among NHL players.

TSN.CA: Responding to drug tests which appear to show an increase in the number of players using cocaine, the NHL is reportedly in talks with the NHLPA to add that drug to its list of banned substances which are regularly monitored. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly doubts it’s a high number of players, speculating it could be less than 20, but claims the number of random positive tests have increased compared to previous years. Players are currently tested twice a year for performance-enhancing drugs like steroids.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering former NHL player Ryan Malone and New York Rangers center Jarret Stoll were both arrested in incidents involving cocaine possession within a year of each other, it’s not surprising the number of players testing positive for the drug is rising. Indeed, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Viktor Loov recently told a Swedish news outlet there was a lot of cocaine usage in the NHL. Of course, we don’t know how much that really is, but it’s obviously something the league cannot overlook or dismiss. 

AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: released results of a study claiming 54 percent of the 116 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) and 60 percent of players with no-trade clauses who changed teams picked teams with lower taxes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those are interesting numbers, though it would be worthwhile to see a multi-year study on the subject, as this one appears limited to just one year. Other factors also come into play in determining where NHL players sign as free agents or select where they’ll get dealt. We should also take this study with a grain of salt, as Americans for Tax Reform has ties to American right-wing politicians and businessmen.

For example, their study notes a number of people in high-tax Canadian provinces east of Manitoba moved to low-tax provinces like Alberta in the last 10 years, suggesting lower taxes are behind the migration. In fact, they were moving to provinces with better job markets. Alberta’s oil industry provides a better source of well-paying jobs (especially for young people) compared to Eastern provinces.  It’s the same reason why so many young people from Canada’s Atlantic provinces moved to Ontario between the 1950s through the 1970s to work in that province’s once-booming manufacturing sector. Taxes had little, if anything,  to do with it. 

SPORTSNET:  San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres has been suspended for half the 2015-16 season (41 games) for his illegal hit to the head of Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg during a recent preseason game. He will also forfeit $440,860.29 in salary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be the end of Torres’ NHL career. It’s the fifth suspension for the 33-year-old, who’s been unwilling to change his reckless ways. 

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Speaking of the Sharks, they named Joe Pavelski their new team captain, with Logan Couture and former captain Joe Thornton as alternates.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: And speaking of alternate captains, the Blackhawks named recently re-signed defenseman Brent Seabrook as an alternate, replacing the departed Patrick Sharp.

CSNNE.COM: Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (upper-body injury) could start the season on injured reserve, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play in any of their upcoming games.

CSNPHILLY.COM: Veterans Vincent Lecavalier, Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn will be healthy scratches for the Philadelphia Flyers’ season opener.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers also placed defenseman Andrew MacDonald on waivers with the intention of demoting him once he clears. I’ll have more about that in my Rumors section later this morning. 

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Brian Gionta will remain captain of the Buffalo Sabres.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche released winger Curtis Glencross from his professional tryout offer.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Promising center Dylan Larkin made the Red Wings roster.

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues signed veteran forward Scottie Upshall to a one-year, two-way contract.

ESPN.COM: Veteran NHL defenseman Mike Weaver announced his retirement. He played 11 seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. Weaver intends to continue working with his hockey school.

MIAMI HERALD: Florida Panthers star Jaromir Jagr intends on bringing back his famed mullet hairstyle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I sense…a great disturbance….as if thousands of hair stylists cried out in terror…and were suddenly silenced.