Riley Cote, NHL Alumni & Co-Founder of Athletes For CARE
Riley Cote is a Canadian former professional ice hockey left winger in the National Hockey League (NHL), who spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers where he was well-known for his role as an enforcer.
Upon retiring from the NHL, Cote founded the Hemp Heals Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cannabis/hemp as viable renewable resource, that can help increase the quality lives of all people. Cote sits on the PAHIC (Pennsylvania Hemp Industries Council) board.
Cote is an Athletes For Care co-founder and the NHL League Ambassador, a role that allows him to continue pursuing his passion to help athletes find safe nontoxic ways to find relief, manage pain and guide them to understand self-healing.
[00:00:01] You're listening to thinking outside the bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policy makers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt
[00:00:31] All right welcome everyone. This is thinking outside the bun. And I'm Bruce Eckfeldt your podcast host. Today we've got a really special guest Riley Coté. RILEY I'm going to have your full bio in the show now it's unstaffed so people can kind of read all about it. But why don't we start with just a little bit of background. I'm really interested in this interview because your background with hockey and with the work that you've been doing and cannabis is this whole area and it's really fascinating for me around cannabis in the kind of sports and recovery and rehabilitation space but why don't you give people a sense of your background and how you got involved in Canada. No one can talk a little bit about what you're doing today.
[00:01:05] Yeah absolutely. Thanks for having me. I played eight years of professional hockey. I grew up in the middle of Canada Winnipeg Manitoba and was introduced to Corvus young age very recreational setting. Obviously parties there was no science back then nothing really to validate what I was doing but I played four years in the Western Hockey League. I was never drafted. And when I turned pro I decided to take on a different role. That being the enforcer of being a fighter within the hockey game and it was then where I really started understanding cannabis using cannabis specifically for for recovery even though I didn't really call it that at that time I knew it calmed my nervous system and you promote relaxation and help with my exogamy and promoted Raf's and let me just find it for those for those that don't know Hakeas I grew up in Minnesota I'm pretty intimately familiar with hockey for those that don't know hockey.
[00:01:55] It's a pretty tough sport particularly the enforcer role is a very physical role as an athlete not only are we dealing with the just the physical demands of hockey but the actual or the skating aspect the actual play was a very physical play. So you're dealing with a fairly significant recovery aspect of the sport and so I guess it sounds like what you were experiencing or what you were able to see is a connection between cannabis use and your ability to actually functionally recover from practice from workouts but the actual games themselves.
[00:02:27] Yeah exactly. I really started noticing that like I said when I started taking on that role because like you said that the physical demand was much higher as well as the anxiety it's hard to explain to someone performance anxiety is one thing everyone's got it to some degree rate whether you drop it or not. But fighting adds a whole other dimension to excite especially when you find guys like Donald Brashear and George the rock and fry McGrattan and these types of guys so the anxiety is real. That was really I think that was really why I ended up leaning on cannabis initially and what I learnt that was that cannabis helped me with the vote five to ten other things as well as Zayat you know and again they're going back to the recovery process or just calming the nervous system promoting rest healthy appetite and then I learned that it was you know really helped with my pain and inflammation but I'd use it previously but again like not consistently as I was later in 2013 broke. So I really start understanding that I guess I was more in tune with my body at that time.
[00:03:26] So you know I quietly would use it daily.
[00:03:29] I mean it was a daily thing after practice evening and you really kind of as needed type of thing and in every league I played on every team I played on there was always a group of guys that were doing the same type of thing you know they're self medicating for whatever reason you know some guys really don't know what they were doing and some guys probably had a better understanding of what they were doing but you know fast forward three or four four years when I landed up finally making the Flyers playing any NHL I was still doing the same thing I was still managing my you know my ailments the same way.
[00:04:01] But back then again there was there was a lot of recreational activity still you know the drinking and the like and stuff and I learnt pretty quickly when I was with the Flyers travelling with cannabis you know has had repercussions so you know I got away with a couple and you know wretched it said well this is my career got to stop this you you I'm smarter and I was really when I started you know kind of get wrapped up in this downward dark spiral of substance abuse. Now I was managing my anxiety and sleep and pain unsustainably with with opioid muscle relaxers sleeping pills Narko. So needless to say is the performance drop. You know everything is going to kind of decay then and physical body is breaking down and a lot of retiring at the age of 28. So you know immediately I had a ton of questions that was kind of sitting there you know just like pondering my life and career and asking myself What the hell happened and what I figured out was that you know my whole life I've really been living unsustainably and cannabis was probably the most sustainable thing I was doing. Unfortunately you know cannabis needs to be integrated with other sustainable methods of healing. So yeah I change everything I changed the way my changed my whole diet. I went from basically a meat eater and a protein junkie to a plant based diet and still I do still eat meat now and then but more so than you know focusing on sustainable meet transition from again protein department from the way proteins to plant based protein specifically hemp protein and that's what I really said. Understanding the nutritional profile they have seen and really understand the cannabis in a different in a different way and understanding you know this resource that was once used for pretty much the whole planet was was sidelined in the name of the industrial revolution in synthetics and synthetic world. So it started to kind of connecting all these thoughts and understanding environment and understand the things that I was doing.
[00:06:02] How is unsustainable they were and why I'm where I was time and and understanding the non Saigo act of cannabinoids that CVD and the CBG and CVN and all these different things I understand that these all had healing properties as well and I learned the science behind you know the brain and neuroprotective properties of these cannabinoids for the brain became extremely passionate about it and really kind of grabbed the whole this thing and said I want I need to be educating people and I mean understanding this you know my my my colleagues the sports are just you know I was one of them and it was kind of like your mindless warrior just go hard go hard go hard and you know the culture of hockey and the culture of society just bear yourself with alcohol and whatever standard protocol is mean you guys I've seen you know played with or played against have substance abuse problem. No real bad addiction problem.
[00:06:55] So the interesting thing from what I hear it's almost more of sort of the sort of psychological stress related stuff almost more so than a physical recovery. I mean deal dealing with as you said it is sort of a mistress I'm playing with the stress of fighting and then just the toll it has on your mind of that kind of trying to maintain that kind of performance over an extended period of time. It is extremely taxing.
[00:07:20] I mean would you say that. I guess. How
[00:07:21] Do you balance the physical recovery aspects versus the psychological recovery aspects. Where do you see them as equal. You see that one is important more effective than the other.
[00:07:33] I think they're both equally important. I mean you know what I've learned is that I've spent so much time worshipping that physical body that I didn't get over enough time to know to the mind of the spirit.
[00:07:44] And there was a price to pay with that. So I think you know even though I was managing my anxiety with that I was also doing a lot of things again that were promoting anxiety. You know I mean an unsustainable unsustainable you know healing practices. So I always say like you know the physical part of the fight was the easiest part. You know it is tough as a lot of the psychological and emotional toll it takes is it's hard to explain to someone especially if you're fighting you know 30 35 times a year and you know even when you weren't fighting you were preparing to fight. So you're walking in this car and they drove out. Hi hi and yeah the constant state of fight mode you know and the natural response is fight or flight. Pick one you know and sometimes again within a game you go the whole game thinking you were a fighter expecting to fight would never happen. So you can imagine the constant state of anxiety and chronic anxiety it's hard to explain. You know even when the fights done you're worry about the next fight. So so you know from that standpoint again the catalyst certainly helps with that question. But I think you know cannabis is a beautiful thing. It doesn't just do one thing it kind of like you know and that's and that's why people gravitate towards so much is that you know you take the job takes a load off you know from an anxiety standpoint but your physical pain and the physical body feels great.
[00:09:02] And you know you put a smiley might have a couple laughs. To me that's his general wellbeing. And that's what it promotes. Now you know on the backside even after retiring and seeing all these products now this you know the CBD and phyto can have annoyed rich products so you know now it's night kind of pick how you want to attack this like there's topical is that strictly effect throughout the physical body versus sublingual that would affect the physical body as well as the mind and the spirit as well. So I think now you're seeing this industry as can you evolve out of this you know this black market into this you know borderline legal market and then the products that come out are coming out of it is are you know unbelievable to me that trick thermal patches because know it's depositories and you name it sprays all the stuff that's come on. So it just screams recovery but to me you know I'm a huge believer and take care of it all. Yeah for acute pain and also. I would I would take the sublingual or I would take it internally so getting you know the full body thing but also it probably is topical as well.
[00:10:05] So let's go back to you retire you retire from hockey. You start looking at cannabis and hemp and you're looking at kind of the holistic holistic recovery.
[00:10:17] You know diet nutrition and physical health comes up for you start looking at him sort of take us through how you started kind of getting more and more involved in this nation what were the next steps for you.
[00:10:29] Yes a when I retired I started making all these changes that I mentioned again became extremely passionate about hemp and I started a 5 1 C3 called The Hemphill's Foundation. This was in 2010 so I was in Pennsylvania Pennsylvania had zero legislation then there was really a pipe dream. Yes. Nothing more than education and awareness. We put on an annual music festival in Philly and a couple educational you know pre building with hemp workshops and just kind of promoting the viability of a home from a nutritional standpoint from a building perspective and then medicine and where is kind of just gonna wake people up in a sense so but it this.
[00:11:03] So this was 2010. So you really had there was really no kind of inkling at that point that this cannoneers wave would start to come. Or do you sense that that there was there was a movement underway.
[00:11:16] Yes and No. I mean I realized I wasn't the first person to be advocating for cannabis and have I mean it was you know there's certainly a movement I think a movement's been around but it really the movement really that really didn't get to where it needs to be. In the sports world up until 2004 it really 2013 2014 when the 2014 farm act 76 06 came out with cannabinoids became really really apparent and all over the place really. And that's when kind of athletes were introduced. These Nonsuch like the cannabinoids but they started speaking out a lot more and being introduced to them and that's why I started being these other athletes at different conferences. So the Hemphill's lined up evolving in a sense not the actual organization itself but my time evolving to really normalizing cannabinoids through sports. I realize these guys all had their version of my story. And you know I'm certainly doing it quietly.
[00:12:11] You know we're kind of under the radar you know themselves meaning maybe doing it right. Maybe not quite so right but they were they were self medicating.
[00:12:18] Exactly and you know some guys will be talking about you know self medicating with actual you know you're dry or you know like the way we all. It seems like the other guys were kind of new newly introduced to it after they retired from really industrial hemp derived CBD component psychoactive so we do see both sides of it and the stories are a little different when you talk to some of these guys. But nonetheless it was it was professional athletes are former freshens athletes coming out and speaking about how these cannabinoids helped them THC or not. I mean that's just for the individual to figure out what they need. But nonetheless the messaging is really the same cannabinoid is a cannabinoid we just have to demonize just keeps the molecule and I think once you get past that we can you can understand this healing play a little bit better but it wasn't you know it wasn't till then that the real sports movement you know integrating sports and cannabis and normalizing gambling to sports really started it started in my life. And so that kind of you know then the Hemphill's kind of got in the background right around that time. There was legislation in Pennsylvania and then eventually the laws got passed. Now we have a you know agriculture pilot program and medical program. So you know I think the mission needs to be changed and that's part of that but my time has really been transitioned into the athletes for care program which I see. I just see so much more opportunity there and not selfishly just worrying about athletes I think that's what you know the name maybe sounds like that but it really lands of being normalizing cannabinoids for all people through sports. We're just using our platform inner voice to tell stories and have signs back up are stories that any sort of research we're going to engage in benefits the general public it's not you know it's not selfishly just about us this is just using our background restoring experience to again normalize the message.
[00:13:59] So athletes for care is a new attempt by what we see or what's the what's the entity of the 523 by one patient. OK.
[00:14:07] And I guess you're looking to basically promote sort of a healthy unbiased use cannabis based products using that kind of athletic platform or your experience in network as as an athlete as professional athletes.
[00:14:22] So what kind of programs are engaging with when you actually do with the organization.
[00:14:26] Yes. The overall mission of the speaker is to promote wellness wellness to meet cannabis and hemp are the you know the centerpiece of wellness. But we can't ignore other pieces of allness like meditation yoga nutritional healing and the rest of the natural world. So I want to be clear that it's bigger than cannabis but not the obvious elephant the room is that the cannabis is a very immediate healing tool. You know I mean a lot of really quickly and the fact that it's borderline legal still you know the urgency is the focus is on that.
[00:14:55] So you know education awareness is a big part of getting community so like again of what we do now is we go to different conferences whether it's an actual economists conference or a health and wellness conference or an anti aging conference whatever it ends up being we get these opportunities to put together panels of three or four athletes and then we have a medical doctor or some sort of researcher to or verifiers snorers through science so again that it legitimizes the story with science because god guns we need that to make this thing as real as it can be. And then above and beyond that without being a support system for guys like guys got different issues so you know what they are dealing with and reach out to us with we would kind of guide them into the right direction of the right professional.
[00:15:38] Are you are you looking. Are you speaking to professional athletes athletes in general or just people that are interested in wholeness and sort of holistic wellness of being a lover of everything honestly.
[00:15:48] I mean again these are a lot of them are actual athletes. We've got collegiate athletes we've got guys that play you know junior level of whatever the story means the same it's just that it started off as a group of former professional athletes using their voice but it's not it's not exclusively for that. So we're going to have we have like a members always type of thing. Again like for safer anybody that would pay a small fee to get certain resources versus the general public if you just want to you know if you just want to fall along and kind of learnable over doing that that's fine too. But I think with a lot of services we would offer our worth you know investing a few dollars because I mean I mean above and beyond.
[00:16:32] So let's use an example. So I'm I'm I was a high school athlete in college.
[00:16:38] I'm done Iron Man I'm kind of like weekend warrior type fractured vertebrae a couple of years ago ended up having a spinal fusion for all find us one.
[00:16:48] You know I I certainly end in kind of this camp you know middle age guy who has generally been very very active but I've been going through more kind of health constraints in terms of physical you know physical body issues you know paying know sort of chronic pain around certain parts my body would just be something that. Is there an offering. Are you are you putting together offerings for someone like me to be able to help figure out how to put together a plan that includes various cannabinoids as well as meditation and things like that.
[00:17:17] That the idea yes that that is the idea and it would all depend on every person or every athlete or every person that joins has a different story a different reason why you know they're hitting us up.
[00:17:28] Some guys don't need the you know the healing side of it. They want opportunity.
[00:17:34] I mean so that's the other side of outfits for carers. You know it's great as a healing to a kind of is there's more to it. And you know it's economics it's jobs job creation job placement investment opportunity. So we have an arm that lands of being Zaku that betting deals and that would be something you know on the membership side you plan on paying for because I mean you or any of your resources to vet deals and the job opportunities that mean has to be some sort of tradeoff at some point for the organization.
[00:18:04] But nonetheless we would provide that. I mean God knows how many jobs it creates. It's not flat. No you're right.
[00:18:10] Creating a really platform for this front for an industry or an ecosystem around cannabis not only for people that are you know using cannabis in different ways but actually working with cannabis research and cannabis doing business in the Canada space.
[00:18:25] It really ends up being a players association for alternatives. In a sense you know it really ends up being because they don't want to touch it and it's controversial to them so that's where that's refit and then we've already been you know working with you know the Anacor alumni association and really trying to implement the programs through them.
[00:18:43] But getting back to what we're talking about is that you know again whether the guy is hurt is struggling whether he's lacked identity or purpose or he again just wants to find something to grab onto as far as you know next for a portion of his life.
[00:19:01] They offer all that stuff and it depends on how you want to go with it. I mean there's guys like you know saying we are a couple of hockey guys you know are one of them was a musician.
[00:19:12] And then whatever or guys is like starting this art program and basically kind of like expressing yourself through art you know through the arts and yeah I mean and so we kind of connects these two guys and it's again lines of acting as like a multi multi level multipurpose impossible where there's just a resource that connect with different guys and see how they're doing and see how they're using or see what they're into. Maybe sharing business opportunities like it's all that you know I mean it's it's amazing some of the stuff that's come out of this and it has really just been totally grassroots like as far as it started off just like I'm just educated with cannabis and then all of a sudden all the pieces started falling again kind of resume their Snider's. Snider's or Cheren co-founder she's the daughter of ads that are used on the flyers. So you can imagine how connected she is into the big business world really trying to just again just have all these different opportunities for guys who learns that guys are really really struggling. You know I mean in law these guys keep quiet. At least give you a platform here where the CSA hurry here or us like a reach out to I have to believe we can help you know in some capacity. Yeah most these guys are struggling with their mental health and substance abuse problems and then obviously with that they struggle with purpose and identity. What we do is that once you retire being an athlete it's so ego driven.
[00:20:32] Everyone no one knows who you are for the job you do and that's it right. Not really what you stand for the human being inside of you. So guys struggle with that because when the lights turn off you know who are you. What do you do and how do you contribute to society. Most guys don't have an answer to that. So they just try to fill the void with a job corps unquote or just something to do to make some money. But there's no fulfillment inherent in them when thing account of his offers is the ability to give back and get back in the community. And you know being you know essentially being a healer. Right. I mean you're introducing an age old age old Herb back to your people and speaking the good word. So I think just fulfillment. That's it. I've felt that fulfillment because I mean you can tell when people have reached out to me after speaking engagement or stuff I post and you know the stuff I'm doing saying all we we've gotten some have oil we signed up for the medical science program and we got unbelievable results and all these positive things so I know it's a healing tool it's just really leading the horse to water and letting the horse you know drink it himself they think so beyond that we take our kind of illegal legalization aspect of it.
[00:21:40] What are the big challenges that you see and the work that you're trying to do. Is it about messaging or is it about as an industry as a product development like what. One of the things that you see on screen and the big challenges in terms of having you know cannabis based products have the impact that you see and they couldn't they could have. But the challenge is one of the things that are in the way.
[00:22:02] I think that the two biggest things and you mentioned in both there is the messaging and then well the science of it. All right so that the messaging there's so much confusion right now especially here in America. So we have you know you have you know we call recreational cannabis and some people call it resinous cannabis or cannabis and you have ham of hemp seed oil and you have Rick Simpson Oil and you have all of these different levels of hemp see zero CVD oil and hemp extract and all this stuff. So like clearing up the messaging and really separating it initially started Hemphill's foundation it was before you really knew all these different phyto cannabinoids but it was really separate. You know even know hemp is a cannabis variety is really separating the recreational and you use the word marijuana say marijuana from industrial hemp. So right off the bat you have to devise it really is an education thing because most people are so so uneducated on all of this that they think it's all the same thing.
[00:22:57] So another night not only the uneducated are actually miseducated saying You got it right. I didn't actually know the wrong thing.
[00:23:03] Exactly. So we're so we were basically reteaching our belief system right. I mean so he got he going from Nali just like teaching him the science of it and the actual differences of the oils and all this stuff like this. The one thing they were told so negative and so bad the whole life is actually healing plants so it's hard for them to wrap your head around and then you've got to master the messaging and that's again you know separating the two sides the plants the two varieties and then and then within that separating the different extraction process the end result. And you said product dooper products like.
[00:23:34] And how those products could help with their condition. I mean if you're over the brain injury like a topical on your arm isn't the right solution. I mean the the method of delivery has to be accurate. So what you're trying to treat and you know and certain things wouldn't be used for certain conditions. So I mean again that's the whole map messaging and education portion of it but then then the science of it. I mean there's so much again pseudo science already the propaganda science that's kind of gotten us to where we are today based on science but you know really legitimizing that and there is science out there and studies maybe we have to look like Israel. We have to look like a abroad because I mean God knows nothing in America because we haven't been able to study it as well as Canada as well. So I mean it's kind of like everything we know about cannabis seems to be very anecdotal based. If you really dig deep deep in around that you'll you'll learn the history of cannabis science is kind of or there you learn about the U.S. Pharmacopeia how cannabis was the main reason for 100 years of research connecting the dots.
[00:24:36] It's pretty simple to understand but the drawn out in layman's terms for people understand that this plant that we've demonized for so long is like the complete opposite of what we've been told and here's the science to prove it. I mean that's the challenge that we see. And that's why the story notes say the anecdotal story of the athlete in our in our case backed up by the medical doctor the researcher really really does give it some juice because you know now you've got both side of the science you don't the story and I think that's what the world needs more of. That's part of the messaging. But again there's so much education done. Yeah I mean I think it's I think they want it that way. They always want it to be confusing because if it's confusing that people really don't know and they're not really good customers. I mean are there only good customers for the poor products. I mean the you know the industrialized products and not the you know the craft can properly produce products you don't think cannabis is sacred and we knew this when we tried to keep it that way. But that's for another conversation.
[00:25:37] Yeah well and I think the exciting thing for me is that you know as professional athletes you know you have a great platform you know as role models for you know so many so many younger people you know being able to use that to really kind of help educate re-educate folks on cannabis not only as a product in a plant but as a healing tool. It's something that I think you know is going to serve you very well. So we're just about a time here. So people are interested in learning more. About you about the organizations. What are the best ways to get a hold of you or how to find out more about your organization and what you're doing. How do they how do they do that.
[00:26:17] Sure athletes for care dot org and then via Twitter is often you know athletes for care. The same for Instagram because with the simple methods. My personal twitter handle is Riley R L E C O Y O T E Reilly coyote. Same thing for Instagram. I'm always posting stuff as well as out for care. You know the different events were attending different things were getting involved and be the easiest and then reach out email. You know what Riley. It's for Cara dot com if you want to learn more we can send you a membership package and get your deci then just going. So yeah lots of good things on the pipes. We haven't scratched the surface yet.
[00:26:58] While I'll put all of those the handles and the length Nimo stuff in the Schoenaerts here for people and yeah I would love to keep in touch and maybe we can do another episode at some point we can get into some more details. But this was a great a great kind of overview of I think a great kind of angle to the whole Canada space of looking at sports and recovery.
[00:27:19] And I think your whole idea that it's really a holistic tool and a healing tool is a really important message.
[00:27:24] With that I thank you for thanks for being on the show.
[00:27:26] I appreciate you having me. We'll talk soon.
[00:27:29] You've been listening to thinking outside the bed with business coach Bruce felt to find a full list of podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. Visit the website at thinking outside the Buy.com and don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter. Thinking outside the but dot com forward slash newsletter.