The only thing more exhilarating than the blare of the goal horn after their team scores is the moment the enforcer drops the gloves transforming the ice into a boxing ring.
Aside from the movie “Goon” and its sequel (highly recommended by this writer) The Enforcer has gone the way of the dodo notably with the changes in HNL rules to protect players.
With the evolution of the NHL, Riley Cote, a former member of the Philadelphia Flyers was one of the NHL’s last true enforcers. During his career Cote was involved in over 50 fights and spent 411 minutes in the penalty box: a badge of honor for any true enforcer on the ice, especially one playing for the Filth Adelphia Flyers.
All the hits took their toll and at the ripe age of 28, he hung up his skates dealing with several physical and mental health issues.
Now 11 and a half years after his retirement, Riley has taken on a new challenge: wellness and mental health. Mindful usage on psychedelics and yoga have set him on the course of enlightenment and healing.
Cote has emerged as one of the sports world’s most vocal advocates for what he calls “plant medicines” — from cannabis to DMT and magic mushrooms to help deal with the effects of several concussions throughout his career.
In 2017, Cote co-founded Athletes for Care, a group promoting the study of physical and emotional health issues athletes face during and after their careers. He attends and speaks at conferences on the benefits of psychedelics while also reaching out to players who are known to be struggling post-career. He has been known to offer magic-mushroom ceremonies where they can safely experiment with the drug.
Cote started Athletes for Care with initially just cannabis, and then psychedelics as the encouraging science grew. He looms as perhaps its most pivotal figure amidst a group of ex pro athletes including Tiki Barber, Bas Rutten and Chris Johnson trading the bevy of prescription meds for a more organic natural path to wellness leaving behind the often dangerous and sometimes lethal side effects of the pharmaceutical world.
“It’s scary, right?” Cote says. “There’s a fear associated with it. There’s a lot of unknowns, like, ‘Where am I going? What am I getting myself into?’ It all sounds grand when you’re sitting on your couch, you know, and talking about it via text or phone. But when you’ve actually got to be committed to something and actually do it, it’s another story.”
Pushing through the fear has reaped many rewards, and Cote is happy to lead the charge becoming a new type of enforcer for health and mental well-being.
Cote says: “It’s been an incredible journey,” he says, “and really, I just want to take as many people with me as possible.”
—By Thom Hunters
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