Things aren’t exactly going as planned for the Vancouver Canucks this season. Not only is the team struggling (they sit second-to-last in their division halfway through the season) but it appears that now their players are accidentally hanging out with a convicted drug smuggler.
According to The Vancouver Sun, veteran Canucks forward and alternate captain Daniel Sedin unknowingly took a helicopter ride last week with a “longtime gangster” who has served prison time in the United States for smuggling drugs.
Last week, Edward “Skeeter” Russell posted a picture to his Facebook page that showed him posing with Sedin in front of a helicopter. The caption read “What’s better than watching Daniel Sedin live on the ice?? Flying him and his wife to a remote snowball fight, that’s what LOL.”
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After discovering the photo, authorities decided to alert the Canucks and share Russell’s history of gang and drug involvement for the sake of the player’s safety. Canucks president Trevor Linden said the team was “completely surprised” by the news.
But it’s actually not even the first time that Canucks players have been linked to Russell. Prior to the Sedin incident, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi agreed to participate in the filming of a video that featured the players skating on a scenic mountain lake. Russell’s friend, pilot Bradley Friesen, flew them to the location and runs the YouTube channel that posted the video. Russell tagged along for the trip.
According to Linden, both Horvat and Baertschi also had no clue about Russell’s criminal background. In an emailed statement to The Vancouver Sun, Linden wrote, “Daniel, Bo and Sven share the highest character and integrity and were completely surprised to learn the background about the individual provided by the authorities.”
“The arrangements for the trips were not made with him directly and any interactions were very minimal on the day. Had our players been aware of his apparent background, they would not have accepted the invitation.”
Back in March of 2011, Russell was sentenced to four and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to smuggling marijuana across the United States/Canada border for a drug trafficking organization linked to the Hells Angels biker group. Over the course of a three-year investigation, U.S. authorities seized more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine, 7,000 pounds of pot and about $3.5 million.
Prior to his conviction, Russell was linked to several drug and gang-related incidents and investigations, some of them violent. Now working as a pilot, he says he’s left his criminal life in the past.