Sports tragedies scaring teams off of alcohol

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens are among the hockey teams that have the hat trick where post-game alcohol consumption is concerned.

A club once synonymous with mighty Molson's Brewery, the Habs have separated church from state.

"Beer is not allowed in the building after the game, on the bus or on the plane," said Donald Beauchamp, vice-president of communications and community relations. "We all know how it was in the past, but there have been a lot of changes and a new reality.

"When you think about it, players are better fit, better trained than ever. We keep a close eye on their diet and nutrition, we provide lunchtime meals on the road, quality food in the lounge at home so they will get the proper meal balance. So why would we want to do something contrary to all that and (encourage drinking)?"

In Ottawa, Senators coach Bryan Murray has taken a harder line with post-game drinks than his predecessors.

The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks did not officially respond to Sun Media's request for their post-game and travel policy with regard to alcohol, though it's believed the Flames allow it on the plane or bus at the coaching staff's discretion.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a no-alcohol team as well, though players have been known to quaff the odd post-game drink in the wives lounge and then continue further social activity at a bar or restaurant at their leisure.

The Raptors and the new Toronto FC soccer team are under the same rules, but minor-league hockey -- with its often brutal bus schedules -- leaves the issue for individual teams to sort out.

Craig Heisinger, general manager of the AHL's Manitoba Moose, is a hard-liner when it comes to booze around his team.

"We don't allow alcohol in the dressing room or the players' wives lounge, at all," Heisinger said. "Never have, never will. It used to be available in our wives lounge, but after the Dany Heatley incident it was taken away. I don't have any use for it. I don't think it's part of sports. It always leads to problems."

A more liberal policy is maintained by the Blue Jays, who have plenty of beer on hand at the Rogers Centre, as per baseball tradition. They also make it available on flights to road games, but not en route back where players have cars at the airport.

But following the alcohol-related death of reliever Josh Hancock, the St. Louis Cardinals closed the bar and stopped serving alcohol on charter flights home.

"As I told the players, this in no way reflects on the way they've conducted themselves," GM Walt Jocketty said. "But it's something we felt we had to do."

One way to prevent overindulging is to not provide much beer. It's how at least one minor-league baseball team approaches the issue.

"We might put a 24 in the clubhouse ... and there are 22 players," Andrew Collier, GM of the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League, said. "We haven't banned it, and I don't see us doing that. Most of our guys don't even have cars."


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