In a news conference Monday, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault denied allegations of mistreatment made by Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner on Saturday night, saying he does not know Lehner or why he would implicate him.
Lehner, who has been outspoken about issues regarding mental health, implied in a Twitter thread that NHL organizations had been handing out prescription drugs to players without prescriptions and that Vigneault, specifically, treats his players like “robots.”
“Is it common for work places to give out benzodiazepines to employees when they travel and ambien ? Should that not be done by doctors or psychiatrist? Asking for a friend,” Lehner wrote in a tweet.
He named the Flyers and Vigneault in a reply to his initial tweet.
The Flyers media team alerted Vigneault about the situation. He said he does not personally know Lehner, who has never played for him, and he’s not sure who among his former players would be the friend Lehner is asking for.
When Vigneault spoke Monday morning, he first addressed the “dinosaur coach” description Lehner used.
“I consider myself experienced,” Vigneault said. “I guess you could say with experience you become a dinosaur, maybe.”
While he acknowledged that he is a tough coach who’s been around a while, he denied that he or the Flyers organization see the players as “robots” rather than people.
“I am demanding, but I care about my players,” Vigneault said.
“As far as me pushing pills — I don’t need another income.”
Vigneault emphasized that the Flyers have the “best medical staff,” and that the players know they can go to them for anything. General manager Chuck Fletcher also said in a statement Sunday that all medical decisions go through the medical staff, not the coaches.
“There’s something that was thrown out there that is completely false,” Vigneault said. “Maybe not the dinosaur part.”
After Vigneault’s press conference, ESPN reported that Lehner did not mean to accuse Vigneault of medical malpractice, although he said in an earlier reply that he knows Flyers players who have told him about the organization handing out drugs without disclosing the medication.
UPDATE: Lehner spoke with the NHL on Tuesday and said he was “very encouraged” by the talks he had with the league and that he plans to continue them.
“I’m always going to advocate for mental health. And advocate for this league,” Lehner said. “But moving forward, I’m looking forward to help in a more private matter. This weekend was a cry for help from this league. This league that I love has given me so much. I’m just trying to protect the younger players, and the only way to affect change, in my mind, is to do it in a non-public fashion.”
Vigneault went through a list of players who may have spoken to Lehner, listing Jonathan Marchessault, Mark Stone, and Shea Theodore, who played for him at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, and Nick Holden, who played for him with the Rangers from 2016-18. However, he said he doubted any of them would make these accusations.
Nolan Patrick, who now plays for the Golden Knights, left the Flyers organization via trade this offseason. A report Sunday implied Patrick may have been the player Lehner is speaking for. However, Lehner also stated in the replies that he doesn’t know Patrick well. The reporter has since recanted his report about Patrick and has apologized to Patrick and the Flyers organization for posting it “prematurely and inaccurately.”
Vigneault acknowledged that Patrick had a tough 2021 season but said he also did the best he could for him. Patrick suffered a serious concussion while with the Flyers and missed the 2019-2020 season with a migraine disorder. However, Vigneault said he doubts Patrick would have made the accusations that he was “pushing pills.”
Vigneault has not spoken to the NHL about the situation, but he said he believes Fletcher has.
James van Riemsdyk, the team’s NHL Players Association representative, spoke next, saying he was not completely aware of the situation and all the allegations. He said the NHLPA has not been in touch with him about this.
“It’s always surprising when you hear from someone playing from another organization who has never played for someone saying that,” van Riemsdyk said.
Van Riemsdyk also emphasized the importance of educating yourself about the proper uses of medications. He said that the education has gotten better over the course of his career. He also said that since he has been a Flyer, the medical staff has handled all medical decisions, not the coaching staff.
When asked what the next steps will be regarding the situation, Vigneault replied that he does not plan to address it again.