Zack Kassian Suspended, Enters Substance Abuse Program

Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

As an update to our story about Zack Kassian‘s early-morning accident on Sunday, the NHL has just announced that Kassian has been placed in Stage 2 of the NHLPA Substance and Behavioral Abuse Program. What this means is that Kassian was found to have been under the influence of something based on blood tests taken at the hospital, and will now undergo treatment and be supervised by doctors until he is cleared.

While I was unable to find detailed information on this rather confidential program, it seems the SABA Program is quite comprehensive. From counseling to treatment, players are entitled to the full gamut to help whatever problem they are experiencing. This link, from 1996, does provide some insight to the program.

The fact that he has been admitted to Stage 2, according to analyst Arpon Basu, means that he has been in the program before.

It should be noted that Kassian has been suspended without pay until he is cleared by doctors.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, Kassian’s salary ($2M) won’t count against the cap until his suspension is lifted.

In my earlier assessment, I mentioned that I was not passing judgment on Kassian, as details were unknown. I remain non-judgmental, because not only are details not known, it is clearly something that transcends the ice and none of us should judge.

Is it disappointing? Of course. But there is a completely different perspective to take here.

The announcement, and the seriousness of it, are bigger than hockey. Kassian is 24 years old, and has been the proverbial “party animal” for as long as he’s been playing. As he has obviously gone through the SABA program before, he is probably lucky he emerged this time with only a fractured nose, foot, and a suspension.

His future, however, is something completely different.

Whether it’s alcohol or something else, he has been assessed to have a substance abuse problem, and at 24, this incident should – hopefully – provide him with that long hard look in the mirror that he needs to take.

He’s young, he can overcome this, and he can get back on the straight and narrow.

Whether hockey is a part of that remains to be seen. Without details, it’s hard even to conjecture, and I wouldn’t try.

No matter what, we wish Kassian all the best in his recovery, and hope to see a stronger, more focused Zack emerge from this life lesson.

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