A possible drug problem in the NHL…three former enforcers on the risks they faced in their former jobs…Tim Thomas has no issue with Roberto Luongo…Steven Stamkos speaks out about head shots…the NHL CBA needs “tweaking”…Should the Dallas Stars change their colors?

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Sean Gordon and Allan Maki interviewed several former NHL players, most of them enforcers, who claim the abuse of painkillers is becoming a problem in the NHL. Former players Denis Gauthier, Brantt Myrhes, Riley Cote,  and Lyndon Byers, along with Ian Laperriere (whose playing career is all but done because of head trauma) and former minor league player-turned-writer Justin Bourne, claim the use of addictive pain medication is becoming widespread, not just in the NHL but also in the minor leagues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We hockey fans admire the toughness of our players, but never stop to think perhaps that toughness might be enhanced by the possible abuse of pain medication. Too many voices are talking about this for pro hockey to ignore, especially at the NHL level, which sets the example for the lower leagues. If this problem is as widespread as claimed (and I see no reason to doubt the word of these former players), the NHL must take action as soon as possible to address the issue. 

TORONTO SUN: Mike Zeisberger recently interviewed former Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi on the recent death of former teammate Wade Belak. Domi believes it’s wrong to link Belak’s depression to his role as a fighter, suggesting Belak’s death, and those of Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard, who were saddled with the mental disease for different reasons.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Jerry Sullivan interviewed former Sabres enforcer Rob Ray, who admitted his role and those of other scrappers leads to increase mental stress as they prepared for each fight they knew would be coming in each game.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Kevin Mitchell interviewed legendary Philadelphia Flyers tough guy Dave Schultz, who holds the single season record for penalty minutes (472). Schultz claims enforcers in his day in the 1970s didn’t get hurt as badly as those who fight today, citing the players size and training, and believes fighting should be banned from the sport.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former enforcers like Schultz who call for fighting to be banned are considered selfish and hypocritical by their critics, but I think Schultz makes a good point about how much bigger and stronger enforcers are today, and how they train to fight compared to years past. That being said, as long as hockey fights remain popular, and no one dies as a direct result of a fight, we won’t see fighting banned in pro hockey.

ESPN.COM: James Murphy reports Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has no issues with Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, whose comments which were interpreted by the media as critical of Thomas’ goaltending style during the Stanley Cup Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thomas backstopped the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup, won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, and won his second Vezina trophy in three years as the NHL’s best goaltender. I think that answers any questions about his goaltending style. Little wonder Thomas has no issues with Luongo.

TAMPABAY.COM: Damian Cristodero reports Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos recently acknowledged the NHL’s new rule to address dangerous head shots, but said ultimately it’s up to the players to be more responsible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree, and one way to help them learn responsibility is stiffer penalties for head shots.

VANCOUVER PROVINCE: Tony Gallagher believes the NHL labour deal needs to be tweaked to address the problems financially struggling teams have reaching the currently mandated salary cap floor. Gallagher doubts the league would risk antagonizing the players by abolishing guaranteed contracts, but suggests it could try to set term limits. The players are likely to try to get rid of the hated escrow clause, which claws back a portion of their salaries, which Gallagher suggests has been used to bankroll the Phoenix Coyotes, which are presently owned by the league. He also suggested big market clubs may be reluctant to continue bailing out struggling teams, and also suggested the league and NHLPA may be more flexible this time around in getting a new deal in place without resorting to a work stoppage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s my guess on what we might see in the next CBA: term limits up to five years maximum on contract, a cap on escrow at under 10 percent, a possible lowering of the salary cap floor to between $20-$25 million less than the cap ceiling, another possible salary rollback if the league attempts to shave off more of the players share of revenue, and no significant changes to revenue sharing. I also believe they’ll reach a new agreement without resorting to another work stoppage. We’ll find out for sure by this time next year.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: recently reports Stars TV analyst Daryl “Razor” Reaugh said the new Stars ownership should change the team’s colors, perhaps to red, white and blue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think they should go with those colors, as they’ll look too much like the Rangers or Capitals. Check it out below: