SUN Hockey Pool

Ex-NHLer faces off with smoking

SHARON LEM, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

TORONTO - Former NHL right winger Steve Larmer wants to help Canadians butt out.

The Peterborough native --who played the bulk of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks and won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers-- quit lighting up when he turned 35 after being addicted to smoking a pack a day for more than 20 years.

"When I retired from playing and there wasn't the stress of playing, my seven-year-old daughter, Bailey, brought home educational anti-smoking pamphlets and it really hit home," Larmer said. "I wanted to set the right example for Bailey. I went cold turkey and I haven't had a craving since."

Larmer, 49, is on a cross-country anti-smoking campaign to help encourage Canadians to face-off against smoking.

"It was the best thing I ever did. After I quit, I noticed changes like being able to breathe easier, taste your food and I was able to smell things differently. So a lot of my senses, which were damaged through smoking, came back to me," Larmer said.

In high-energy sports like hockey, professional athletes need to capitalize on their aerobic power to keep pace with the game.

Research shows that athletes who smoke experience a decrease in muscle strength and flexibility compared to non-smoking athletes.

"I smoked throughout my hockey career," he said, adding he had tried to quit 20 times over the course of his career. "So who knows how much better I could have played if I didn't smoke."

When an individual quits smoking, the risk of heart disease and stroke begins to decrease, research shows.

Within seven days of quitting smoking, oxygen concentration in the lungs increases, prolonging the time it takes to reach exhaustion.

Within one year of quitting, the risk of dying from smoking-related heart disease is cut in half. Within 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. After 15 years, the risk of dying will be nearly that of a non-smoker.

More than 50% of former smokers report they are able to become smoke-free after one or two serious attempts.

But the percentage of people

who remain smoke-free after one year of quitting ranges from 5% to 18%.

For information, log onto It's Canada's Time to Quit at itscanadastime.com.


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