In the wake of the Belcher killings, discussing a DUI arrest will seem less than forceful. A tragedy of that sort commands our attention in a way that a non-tragedy does not. However, hockey is our sport and the NHL is our league, and Riley Sheahan‘s “superdrunk” evening behind the wheel in a Teletubbie costume raises a troubling issue that our sport has faced for some time. An issue that must be addressed: The NHL’s dress code. No, just kidding…
Alcohol is the preferred form of impairment that most people choose, probably due to its legal status and acceptance in the culture. While there is no undisputed champion of man’s favorite liquid-based pastime, the NHL would be a good place to start if such a champion is to be found in a professional sports league. While it may seem preferable to have the vast majority of criminal offenses in the NHL be related to accidents while drinking, as opposed to deliberate acts of violence, both situations result in unbearable heartache and life-destruction. Motives do matter, but only up to a point.
Khabibulin, Fedorov, Fleury, Mccarty, Probert; these are just a few players one can name off the top of the head that have had trouble with alcohol, and now Sheahan, unfortunately, has his own special spot on this tipsy roster.
There is likely no special reason why this seems to happen to so many players. Alcohol use is ubiquitous, and so is drunk driving. But this is a nasty trend that the sport has seen, and I fear that an attempt to halt it may be futile. The country has been endlessly inundated, especially since the 1990’s, with after school specials and public service announcements warning against the dangers of drunk driving. But drunk driving persists.
It seems a painfully simple rule that driving while intoxicated is out of the question, before a person takes his first sip of course. But as we know, after sips five or six, warnings seem less potent and consequences seem as distant as a manned trip to Jupiter.
Riley Sheahan had a BAC level of .30, which is an enormous amount of alcohol, especially for someone who has very little body fat. While he will get the book, or at least many of its chapters, thrown at him, the kid got off luckier than many others who have made this terrible mistake. No one was hurt, and for that, Sheahan should be beyond grateful. It seems that the only way people are deterred from drunk driving is to be scared straight, and while this is not a practical or scientific method of deterrence, it is the most effective.
I would suggest that Sheahan NOT be deported, as he could be under “superdrunk” laws, but put on probation for an extended period of time, coupled with a hefty fine and community service. Perhaps even a tether, the shameful device that wayward drinkers are obliged to wear, would be in order. It would be excessive, and slightly hypocritical, to deport a young man for an offense where no one was hurt, and one that most people have committed.
The marriage of vehicles and alcohol has been a terrible one, and until technology steps in on a grander scale, one that will not end anytime soon. Why not pass a law requiring all vehicles to be fitted with the devices that repeat offenders must have installed on their cars? Cost efficiency would be my guess.
All of life, to an extent, is a gamble and the odds quickly get stacked against you when the sauce is thrown into the mix. When someone decides to enter the world of the user, they must understand that they are taking a significant risk, one that could impact every area of their life. Furthermore, if used long enough, substances are practically guaranteed to get you into some kind of hot water in one way or another.
Sheahan is in hot water, but not scalding. While living in fear is no way to live, it is fear that will keep this guy in line, if he in fact takes this incident as a lesson. Sheahan is a player with a lot of promise, not to mention a fellow human being, so let’s hope he is paying attention to the teacher.
Next time, the world might not be as forgiving.
I began my career in hockey as a pre-scout for Cranbrook Kingswood Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I have been writing about the NHL for multiple platforms since the 2007-2008 season.