The National Hockey League regular season hasn’t even started yet, but the drama has already begun for Alain Vigneault and the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday evening, Robin Lehner tweeted a series of messages suggesting NHL teams do not properly treat their players medically, highlighting Jack Eichel’s current standoff with the Buffalo Sabres regarding his surgery options.
Lehner’s biggest accusation was that benzodiazepines and Ambien are regularly given to players for travel and that “many teams without prescriptions just hand it out”. He went on to suggest that Vigneault and the Flyers were guilty of this practice and that the coach should be fired, even though the goaltender has never played for the organization.
Obviously, Vigneault was not very thrilled to read about Lehner’s rant and responded to questions from members of the media on Monday.
“I was obviously very disappointed,” Vigneault said at Flyers camp Monday, via ESPN. “As far as me pushing pills, I don’t need another income. I have no idea where that comes from. I don’t know what else to say. I have no idea.”
The coach brushed aside Lehner’s comments as false information and made a point by asking a reporter if he believed COVID-19 was real. “A lot of people don’t,” said the coach. “Do you believe vaccines are good? Some people believe if you get the vaccine, you become a magnet, or that it changes their DNA. Do you believe President [Joe] Biden won the election? A lot of people don’t. So there was something that was thrown out there that is completely false.”
Lehner even went on to claim in one of his tweets that Vigneault was a dinosaur, to which the coach also responded on Monday.
“I don’t know the young man. [He said] that I was a dinosaur. I consider myself experienced. Dinosaur? You can say that with experience you become a dinosaur, maybe? I do know that I’ve been coaching a few years. I am tough. I am demanding. But I care about my players. I want their best. Through the years, some guys have liked me and some guys a little bit less. But I’ve done it with the best intentions, with respect,” Vigneault said.
Philadelphia’s NHLPA Representative also spoke out regarding Lehner’s accusations, claiming he hasn’t seen any players abusing medication provided by NHL teams without proper prescriptions.
“I think the game’s come a long way during the course of my career. But I’m sure there are guys struggling with issues. I’m not going to be blind and naïve to that,” he said Monday. “But this generation of players is more willing to ask questions. Whether it’s teams or the league or the PA, over the years, they’re trying to inform guys on the seriousness of certain substances.”
It’ll be interesting to see what results from Lehner’s tweets, but they have certainly shed light on the topic, whether his accusations are valid or not. The Flyers kick off the 2021-22 NHL regular season on October 15th at home against the Vancouver Canucks.