Robin Lehner has been speaking out on the ease and frequency NHL clubs hand out powerful pain killers to players in order to get them back on the ice. More than likely players would be sitting out games resting and recovering from injury if it weren't for the widespread use of opiates and other powerful meds not commonly prescribed to folks like you and I. And combined with the 'next man up' mantra, many fringe NHL'ers are forced to decide between their health and safety and staying in the lineup protecting their roster spot.
Tom Sestito has recently weighed in on the matter. The former Penguin managed to suit up for 154 games in his career scoring 10 goals and accumulating 11 helpers. However, he was always best known for introducing his fists to the faces of others in a violent and combative manner. His most prolific years of fisticuffs occurred with the Vancouver Canucks in 2013-14 where he suited up 77 times and went toe-to-toe with the leagues biggest, and baddest combatants 24 times. Overall, Sestito dropped the gloves in an NHL arena 44 times. And of course, that doesn't include all the times he found willing dance partners in lower level leagues. It's perfectly understandable if someone offered me a bottle of Toradol and Ambien, I'd pop pills with as much reckless abandon if my role was to get punched in the face on a regular basis as part of my day job.
Sestito confirmed Lehner's accounts of reckless over-prescribing of pills. Young kids in their 20's who are more focused on playing hockey than caring about their ability to walk in their 50's rely on team medical staffs to get back on the ice. So, when a bottle of Vitamin T (Toradol) lands in their laps and popping a few pills every day makes them feel invincible once more, why wouldn't they indulge?
Sestito arrived to the Penguins in 2015 hooked on pills in a bad way. Penguins medical staff identified a problem and worked with Sestito to wean him off. Sestito believes some organizations are better than others looking out for the health and safety of their players, both in the short term and long term. In this instance, the Penguins appeared to be on the right side of player safety. Sestito appears to have a certain hatred for Alain Vigneault whom coached him briefly in Vancouver.
All of this should greatly concern us as NHL fans. Often times, especially as Penguins fans, we hear of the "injury bug" and fixate on when our favorite players will return to play. We get excited when we hear news reports of players skating, wearing non-contact jerseys during practice, or finally being cleared for play. But none of us really know what's happening behind the scenes. Nor do we really know the full extent of how players are sacrificing their bodies for the rest of their lives for a sport we love and adore. We should demand better; it's wholly unethical for us as fans simply to sit by and cheer wins, boo losses, then shrug our shoulders when we hear reports of medical malfeasance and abuse perpetrated by team medical staffs.