Nate Schmidt of the Vegas Golden Knights has been suspended for the first 20 games of the regular season without pay for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, the League announced Sunday.
The defenseman will be permitted to participate in team activities during training camp, but he will not dress or play in any preseason games. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.
Schmidt, 27, is eligible to return Nov. 18 when the Golden Knights play at the Edmonton Oilers.
"I am extremely disappointed to learn that I have been suspended for a violation of the NHL/ NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program," Schmidt said in a statement. "The fact that I'm issuing this statement is surreal to me as I have only used supplements provided by my NHL team and I have always been extremely careful about what I put into my body. Throughout my playing career I have been tested numerous times, including twice last season, and I have never before tested positive. It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance. Not only did I not intentionally take a banned substance, I could not have received any performance enhancement benefit from the trace amount that inadvertently got into my system at a level that was far too small to have any effect. This low amount was consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.
"While I support having a strong Performance Enhancing Substances Program in place for our sport, it is difficult to accept this suspension. I understand that I will miss these games, but I do not agree with the suspension and I will not accept being labelled a cheater."
Schmidt had NHL career highs in goals (five), assists (31) and points (36) last season for the Vegas Golden Knights after he was selected in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Schmidt had seven points (three goals, four assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Vegas lost to the Washington Capitals in five games.
Schmidt has 79 points (13 goals, 66 assists) in 276 games in five NHL seasons.
"We were notified that the NHL has suspended Nate Schmidt for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program," the Golden Knights said in a statement. "While we respect the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, we strongly dispute the suspension. We firmly believe that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional. Based on our conversations with Nate, analysis from independent medical experts and sworn testimony from the parties involved, we believe it is clear Nate was not able to reasonably ascertain how the substance entered his body.
"Nate is an honest person with high moral character and great integrity. We will stand by him and support him during this time."