Habs 'concerned' players hung out with alleged dealer
Published Friday, February 20, 2009 4:51PM EST
Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey says he's "very concerned" about reports linking three Habs players to a man arrested in a massive crackdown against drug trafficking and organized crime.
Montreal's La Presse newspaper reported on Friday that brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn were in almost daily contact with Pasquale Mangiola, one of the suspects rounded up by police last week in the Operation Axe sting.
Gainey said the link is troubling because the hockey club takes great pains to ensure that players remain well-adjusted and focused on their games.
He also explained that the Canadiens' organization works to keep certain elements, unsavoury or otherwise, from "having access" to players or coaches.
"We're very concerned, because we know that this person who became involved with the players, he's not the only person who wants to find a place to enter the inner area of the hockey team," said Gainey.
"We turn people away everyday," he said.
Mangiola faces six charges related to drug trafficking and illegal weapons. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Another member of the Canadians, Roman Hamrlik, is also linked to Mangiola though not as closely as the brothers, La Presse reported.
The paper noted that none of the three players are accused of any illegal activities and are not being investigated for any crimes.
Police accuse Mangiola of working as a liaison for three gangs that are all connected to the Hell's Angels.
The paper reported that police records show Mangiola acted as a sort of assistant to the brothers.
"La Presse reports that when the Kostitsyns were at the bar and wanted to get alcohol or women, it was Mangiola who would set it up, and when the Kostitsyn brothers needed a car it was him that would set up the car lease," said CTV Montreal's Rob Lurie.
Francois Gagnon, a sports writer at La Presse, said the paper waited two days before publishing the three-page story, in order to verify all details with police sources.
He said the revelations are sure to be a distraction to the already-struggling hockey club.
"There was a lot of speculation over the last couple of weeks, wondering why the Canadiens were going down the drain hockey-wise, and there's been stories all around the city about things happening with players, but that's nothing new," Gagnon said.
"Now the problem is that it is documented, you have wiretaps, you have information coming from the police that the Kostitsyn brothers and some other players of the Canadiens had ties with that guy."
So far the hockey organization has not commented. CTV Montreal tried to speak with players as they arrived back in the city Friday morning from a road trip. None were willing to speak with reporters.
The Canadiens have a dismal record of three wins, 11 losses and one tie in the last 15 games.