The National Hockey League is looking into a report that three Canadiens players, including former Islander Roman Hamrlik, have been linked to an accused drug trafficker arrested in a crackdown on street gangs in Montreal.
None of the three players -- the others are brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn -- has been connected to any criminal activity, according to the report in La Presse, a French language newspaper. But team general manager Bob Gainey said the storied franchise is "very concerned" about the type of people to whom his players are exposed.
The Kostitsyns were said to be close to Pasquale Mangiola, 38, charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy during the Montreal police department's sweep called Project Axe. The two players had been seen socializing with Mangiola and had contacted him "when they wanted something, like a bottle of vodka, luxury cars, women," La Presse said. Hamrlik reportedly knew Mangiola to a lesser extent.
Hamrlik and Andrei Kostitsyn both played in the Canadiens' 5-3 win at home over the Senators yesterday, with Hamrlik getting two assists. Sergei Kostitsyn had been returned to the minor-league affiliate in Hamilton as the struggling Canadiens shuffled the roster to try to snap out of a slump.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement, "The NHL is aware of the reports and is in the process of getting information." He told the Home Ice program on XM Radio that league security personnel are in Montreal "looking at the facts."
Gainey appeared at a news conference Friday to address the report, which had been rumored for days. "We're very concerned. Very concerned because we know that this person who became involved with these players, he's not the only person who wants to find a place to enter the inner area of the hockey team," he said. "We turn people away every day. And it could be a sports psychologist, masseuses, somebody with any kind of program that wants to find a way into the inside of the team and have access to our players, and the Montreal Canadiens as an organization."
He cautioned about people "who are looking for trophy friends or the possibility of being close to somebody who earns a million dollars-plus."
Montreal police records indicated that Mangiola had been arrested in 2000 on fraud charges and ultimately was fined $300 for having used a forged credit card.