CALGARY, Alberta — Some Bruins rely on plant-based diets for their nutritional needs.
Bruce Cassidy is OK if they want to do the same for pain.
“I’m not against it,” the Bruins coach said of using marijuana to treat the aches and ailments that come with an 82-game NHL season, “if the facts dictate that it can help you.”
On Wednesday, Canada became the largest country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. It was the biggest story in the nation, plastered all over TV, newspapers, and social media.
While now legal in 13 NHL cities — seven in Canada, three in California, plus Boston, Denver, and Washington — pot is still federally illegal in the United States.
The Associated Press reported that the NHL and NHL Players Association do not plan to change their joint drug-testing policy, under which players are not punished for positive marijuana results. The NFL and NBA can suspend players for multiple pot infractions, and MLB can issue fines. Marijuana is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and among Olympic athletes.
Before departing for their Canadian trip, which runs through Calgary (Wednesday), Edmonton (Thursday), Vancouver (Saturday), and Ottawa (Tuesday), Bruins players were given a memo from the NHL to educate them on cannabis legalization and safety.
The Flames had a player meeting Tuesday. The teaching points: be fit for duty, regardless of substance, and know the rules about transporting cannabis across country lines. For example, players who use cannabis as medicine legally in Canada cannot bring it legally to the United States.
In the visitors’ dressing room at Scotiabank Saddledome, the topic was passed around after the morning skate. Cannabis has long been a stigmatized drug, so no Bruins player was asked directly if he used it, medically or recreationally. But their thoughts reflected changing attitudes in society and sports.
“I don’t know enough about it,” said Cassidy, 53. “I’m open-minded in terms of if someone could convince me that it’s better off. Speak to some millennials; they seem to feel that way.”
Pot advocates tout its benefits, such as cannabis compounds that can offer pain relief without making users feel high. In an Associated Press story this week, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, 21, said players would be “stupid not to look into” the drug’s ability to treat the aches and pains of a long NHL season.
Those comments caught the attention of Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo, 21, who watched his home state legalize it in 2012.
“I’ve never had much interest in the concept of it, and I don’t see myself partaking in using it,” said Carlo, who is from Colorado Springs. “But if guys start to research it, I’ll start to pick some brains.”
Forward Jake DeBrusk said he has seen positive results in some of his friends, none of them NHL players, who have used it for pain management.
“Any time a country makes it legal, I think it’s got to have some benefits to it,” said DeBrusk, who noted its use among cancer patients. “I guess now the conversation will start. We’ll find more and more about it.”
Scituate, Mass., native Ryan Donato, 22, said he isn’t interested in looking into medical cannabis, but “I know a lot of guys have,” he said. “Down the line, if there’s benefits, I’m sure the leagues will realize that, because they want their players to be in the best shape and make sure they’re healing the right way.”
Brad Marchand, 30, said he’ll continue to use whatever team doctors prescribe.
“It doesn’t affect me in one way or the other,” said Marchand, who is from Halifax, Nova Scotia. “If it’s legal, it’s legal. I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot around the league.”
Cassidy, from Ottawa, said smoke doesn’t agree with him. “Cigars, cigarettes, pot, I don’t like the taste or smell of it,” he said.
He considers himself a “by-the-book type of guy.”
Like many Canadians, he’s eager to see how his country’s decision plays out.
“If it does work out, we’ll be trend-setters,” he said. “If not, we’ll look like idiots. Time will tell.”
DeBrusk, from Edmonton, offered a message for his fellow Canadians.
“I guess now that it’s legal, stay safe, and don’t drive high or anything like that,” he said. “That’s my opinion on it. Be respectful about it, and do whatever you want to do.”
Wednesday was DeBrusk’s 22nd birthday, but as the Bruins began a run of three road games in four nights, he wasn’t in much of a position to celebrate.
But the occasion, and the news of the day, had him in a joking mood.
“It’s obviously circulating in the Twittersphere,” he said. “Hey, I guess it’s legal and I’m Canadian, so that’s the way it is.”
Charlie McAvoy knocked Johnny Gaudreau out of the game with a late hit in the third. With 8:23 left, McAvoy was called for interference after he finished the Calgary wing with a hit behind the net. Calgary coach Bill Peters said Gaudreau was pulled off the ice by the NHL’s concussion spotters after playing on the power play. McAvoy is not likely to be disciplined by the league, even though late hits are in the spotlight after another slightly built standout, Vancouver rookie Elias Pettersson, was body-slammed by Florida’s Mike Matheson last Saturday. The ex-BC defenseman received a two-game suspension.
. . . Gaudreau reached the 100-goal mark in his 318th game. David Pastrnak hit the century mark in his 259th.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.