Light me up that cigarette, and I’ll strap…skates on my feet!

Congrats on setting a new world record...i guess.

Congrats on setting a new world record...i guess.

According to yesterday’s NY Post, Sean Avery was spotted down in the Meat Packing District in NYC over the weekend, huffing lung darts with gal pal actress Catherine Keener.  A good friend of mine who lives in NYC and runs a Hockey & Entainment blog called, The Daily Sauce,  saw Avery back on April 4th  after the Rangers disappointing 1-0 road loss to the Bruins, standing outside a New York City bar with his shirt and tie still on, a bluetooth in his ear and cigarette in mouth.  Now, this article in the Post got me thinking about how we are starting to see a cigarette smoking trend on the Loge,  so I decided to dig a little deeper for all you loyal readers and see if this was a common theme among NHL players.  So kick back, light up a stogie, or two…or three, as I uncover the TRUTH.

I have to start by thanking Uniwatchblog.com for some nice commentary on the relationship between sports and cigarettes, and although the article is geared more towards other pro sports, most notably baseball, there is some great insight (and some great picture evidence of some notable sports figures lighting one up).  But the Loge is all about hockey, so I had to dig even deeper to find what Loge readers want.  So without further commentary, I will jump right into my findings.

The most notable hockey name that I continued to stumble across was Hall of Famer Guy “The Flower” Lafleur, who apparently was quite the smoker in his day; despite scoring over 500 goals and finishing his career averaging 1.2 PPG. According to his biography on Biographybase.com, Lafleur was good for 2-packs a day; which I think only make his career numbers even more astonishing!  Let me put it this way: Lafleur was good for 40 cigarettes a day, and when you take into account the fact that he obviously slept for 6-8 hours a day, he was smoking 2-3 cigs every hour…he had to be lighting up during a game otherwise he would be losing valuable smoking time.   While I came across Lafleur’s name quite often in my searches, one name that I really had to dig for was the great Mario Lemiuex.  I have heard stories about him smoking cigs, but I needed to find out the truth for myself (and you the readers).    While he was not as heavy a smoker as Lafleur, in the early part of his career #66 would huff down about a half pack per day.  Apparently, just before the 1987 Canada Cup, when Lemiuex led all scorers with 11 goals (including the famous game winner in the championship game), many critics questioned his dedication (obviously b/c of his smoking habit).  However, the very next year he won the Hart and the Art Ross trophies…dethroning the Great One from his seven year run as the leading point getter and forever immortilizing him in hockey history.  Another former NHL stud who has been linked to smoking cigarettes is former Chicago Blackhawk Dennis Savard, who was known for smoking cigarettes in the locker room.  Check out this article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette during the 1983 playoffs, Kids Are In Charge of Semifinal, profiling the Oilers vs. Hawks series and comparing Wayne “The Kid” Gretzky to Denis “The Dead End Kid” Savard (top of second column makes note of Savard’s smoking habits).   Apparently cigarettes only helped the Savardian Spin-o-rama!  I think the best stories I came across were about the always controvesial Al “Empty Net Goals Are For Faggots” Iafrate,  from articles in the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, circa 1993.  Both articles paint Iafrate as a Harley Davidson riding, heavy metal music loving, cigarette smoking “Wild Thing.”

His preferred mode of transportation is a Harley Davidson motorcycle, his main music is metal-based, and he often fires up a post-game cigarette with the same propane torch he uses to sculpt his hockey sticks.

I don’t know about you guys (and ladies), but this certainly solidifies Iafrate’s roster spot on my “Best of NHL Badasses” list.  Imagine a young Peter Bondra preparing a new stick for the start of the second period, and Al Iafrate bullying the torch from him to light up a smoke.  PRICELESS!  Now I know these four guys are no longer in the NHL, and undoubtedly played during a different era of sports, but don’t worry, my research didn’t stop there.

Besides Sean Avery and Carey Price, I happened to come up with a few current NHL players who like to dablein the lung darts.  The best piece of evidence I was able to come up with was this gem of a picture of Miikka Kiprusoff and Dion Phaneuf lighting up smokes at what is apparantly a strip club.  Can you say classy? (I don’t know who to give credit to for this photo because I found it everywhere, so just know that it is not Loge19’s. )

I did it all for the nookie!

I did it all for the nookie!

Now let me point out a few things in this picture.  They are definitely at a strip club because there is a “I love tits” bumber sticker on the back door, and if you look closely there is a wall of lockers for the strippers to store their ‘street clothes’ in.  But I’m not here to call them out for being at a strip club, so enough about that.  Notcie Kiprusoff lighting his cigarette with another cigarette…a sure sign of a chain smoker.  I got nothing for Phaneuf, but obviously he does like ‘sloppy seconds’ if he’s hanging out in the back room of a strip club.  Another goalie that has/had a reputation for smoking lung darts is Stanley Cup champion Nikolai Khabibulin.  Apparently in Phoenix he was an out-of-shape,  slob of an athelete, and smoked a lot of cigarettes.  Here is what John Tortorella had to say about him when he was acquired by the Lightening in a TSN article about seven years ago:

I was with Nik in Phoenix a number of years ago where Nik was out of shape, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, the whole nine yards…

Now I’m not sure if he still enjoys smoking cigarettes, but my guess is that he does because his coach for the past two seasons in Chicago (before getting fired this year) was Denis Savard, and I’m sure they had pre game butts outside the players’ entrance.  Moving on, Sergei Subov appears to be a renowned smoker, and apparently smokes unfiltered Russian Cigarettes…can you say BAD ASS!  The guy has two Stanley Cups and plays 25+ minutes a game when he’s healthy.  One of the best lines I found in regards to Zubov, was from a European scout who was comparing Ottawa’s first round pick in the 2008 draft, Erik Karlsson, to Sergei Zubov; “He’s Zubov, without the cigarettes.”  HAHAHAHAHA.

I’m sure there are plenty more players that smoke cigarettes in the NHL today, but obviously they keep things a little more hush-hush than they did 20 years ago.  A few names that I stumbled across but didn’t research quite as much were: Dany Heatley, Mats Sundin, and Chad Larose of the Carlina Hurricanes.  I actually had the pleasure of indulging in a few cigs with Chad Larose during his rookie season in the USHL with the Siuox Falls Stampede, and he definitely loved every inhale of them (this was in 1999, before the time of digital cameras, but I’ll look back in the photo vault to see if I can find some picture eveidence of this…he was not the only one on the team smoking).

In closing, there are obviously some very big names in the NHL that have been, and are, linked to cigarette smoking.   I’m not sure about the legitmacey of this statistic, but on a Yahoo! Message Board one person posted the following in 2008:

317 NHL players on their insurance form, claim to have smoked at least 1 cigarette in the last 12 months. Or roughly 35% of the league.

If this is true, that is a staggering number, and makes you wonder: if they are checking a box that says they have smoked “one cigarette in the past 12 months,” they have obviously smoked way more than one.  If  any of you readers have any insight into this statistic, please send it our way.


3 Responses to “Light me up that cigarette, and I’ll strap…skates on my feet!”

  1. 1 LPsnipa6
    May 7, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    That was a great post. Guy Lafluer was just arrested also. Guess he has always been a bad boy. http://www.canada.com/topics/sports/story.html?id=7fe6d2a9-5a07-4255-8efb-b9a4133efe0c&k=56864

    I encourage everyone to hit that SI story up on Iafrate it is well worth it.

  2. May 10, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    Mark Messier was also a smoker. It’s amazing that anybody can smoke while playing professional hockey. It is the sport where healthy lungs are needed most.

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