Select Page

Riley Cote is a former professional hockey player. Riley played eight National Hockey League seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers in his most notable role as enforcer as well, he was the assistant coach with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He now pursued his passion in developing his personal clinics and working with youth hockey teams. In this episode of Omni Athlete, Riley discusses his transition from hockey player and enforcer to spiritual man, recognizing the lack of preparation professional sports provides you for the real world, the value and necessity of spirituality, mindfulness and caring for yourself to prevent you from going down destructive paths, the importance of cannabis, his initiative Athletes for Care but overall, reveals that in order to achieve peak performance, one must be in connection with their mind and spirit. Join host Rich Walcolf for this interesting conversation to help you on your journey to access your peak performance state and unlock sport as a transformational human experience.


Riley’s transition from enforcer to spiritual man [1:12]

  • Riley grew up religious with Mennonite and Catholic parents but and raised Christian Protestant.
  • Attended Church until minor leagues but wasn’t fulfilled by that message. Never bought into it. Seeking something more.
  • Turned pro when I was 20. Felt he was “a genuinely a good spirit but I found that my behaviors off the ice were very destructive.”
  • Took on the role of being a fighter and “required some self-medicating, many times the wrong ways. I learned and am not proud to say that it became my routine, but it is who I am.”
  • Found his way through the minor leagues and to the NHL for parts of 4 years, “it was a childhood dream. I learned to do whatever to took to find my way. I experienced the climb and cutthroat business of corporate sports.”
  • “Unfortunately, it was a lot of sacrifice of my physical, emotional and spiritual being. I was forced – or made a decision – to retire at 28 because I was at a crossroads. My physical body was breaking down and emotionally and spiritually, I felt just as broken.”
  • “I had a sour taste. My physical body was breaking down, and it forced me into a corner to decide to keep going the way I was going, partying and drinking and doing all these things that were destructive to my spirit or was I going to make a change and do the right thing and follow that path?”
  • Became excited and passionate about nutrition, holistic health, and theology, and saw a whole inner dimension to “this planet we’re living on. This was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
  • “I realized my whole sports career, and life has been ego. It’s so ego-driven because you’re so consumed by yourself. And you’re so worried about yourself, appearance and you’re under the spotlight a lot. I learned to stop caring about that and value emotions.”
  • “A lot of things I was doing were in good spirit but it wasn’t right, it was mindless behavior.”
  • “I’ve realized what’s real versus what I’ve been taught to be real.”


Tear yourself down to build yourself up again [6:00]

  • “I’ve learned along the way that people who become awake, there’s usually something that major that has to kick them in the face.”
  • “You either decide to go up or remain here and be satisfied with that. I think that’s when depression and anxiety go south because you’re unable to manage it.”
  • “I was 100% engaged as an athlete, but I wasn’t very functional.”
  • “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find yourself.”


A new perspective on holistic health and longevity in sports [9:22]

  • “It’s come a long way. As far as the resources they provide players.”
  • “Back when I was playing, there was no mindfulness or recovery coaches. When I played, I felt guilty taking a day off. Recovery wasn’t even part of the equation. This is part of the mindless behavior I was talking about – How can you focus on recovery as much as you are as performance?”
  • “It sounds crazy that I wouldn’t have done that [recovery], but it wasn’t something you’re taught. It was the old-school mentality of go hard, go harder, go harder, and if not, we’re just going to replace you with somebody. That’s the business.”
  • “You don’t value these things until the physical body breaks down at the age of 28 because it’s not supposed to.”


Regrets of your path or at peace with what happened [12:30]

  • “I have no regrets. Would I have done things differently as far as how I trained? Yeah, shoulda, woulda, coulda because I know better now.”
  • “I wasn’t the best hockey player, fighter, hitter but I brought spirit. If I was on the ice around the rink, you knew I was around, positively.”
  • “What comes with fighting and grinding your body up regularly is learning to deal with more pain than in general.”
  • “When I retired at 28, I stopped drinking for a full year because I needed to hit the reset button.”


Embraced a different approach – cannabis as recovery from injuries [16:00]

  • Introduced to cannabis at a young age in a recreational context
  • Not introduced to the therapeutic values until junior hockey days by itself without the party
  • Realized it would help to provide a sense of calm, help with sleep and quietly continued using it for the duration of a junior hockey career.
  • Wasn’t until retirement and went down the holistic path and understand the nutritional profile of the hemp seed and converting to hemp protein, understood the anti-inflammatory and the healing properties of CBD and hemp that promotes relaxation, sleep and manages pain.
  • “It was a revelation for me. It was something that I believed in inside of me to be true, but science, the law, and everything was stacked against it. It was a revelation to believe something right. Now you see more unbelievable science and laws changing.”
  • As a hockey player with repeated head trauma, learning that science has been released to recognize that CBD is a neuroprotectant, promotes neurogenesis and brain growth could not be more therapeutic.
  • “I attribute my mental health and condition now to my cannabis use.”
  • “The thing I believed in when I was mindlessly my adolescent self is extremely valuable for all people in increasingly quality of life.”
  • Helping athletes transition from addicting substances to cannabis and hemp, “These guys wouldn’t go down these dark paths if they had a cleaner, safer, non-addictive alternative than synthetic heroin.”


Exuberance of youth – doing what you have to do to get by on game day [21:30]

  • “All day is mental preparation for the game.”
  • “It’s David versus Goliath every day.”
  • Using accellerants every day is “just not sustainable. The human body is the human body. We’re not invincible beings.”
  • “The things I do now are much more functional for me being a hockey player now than when I was a professional athlete.”


Post-game reflection – A product of the system and culture of the time [24:30]

  • “I’m constantly seeking higher states of consciousness. It’s like a game to me now, unlocking these mysteries and things that the universe has for us to peek in too.”
  • “I stopped caring what people think because we’re so disconnected as a society.”
  • “There’s a shift in consciousness, and I wish it were quicker. I want to help facilitate it. With sports, it seems like the best platform for me to use.”
  • “Spirituality in sports seems like an oxymoron.”
  • “I had created a false character of myself because I was so invested in the role.”


Receptivity of the athletes Riley coached to his ideas [28:30]

  • Great response from older athletes, those preparing for retirement and knowing what path to go
  • “As a teacher, you have to change your language and approach with different levels of people, as far as where they are in their spiritual growth and maturity.”
  • “You live in an artificial bubble of what reality is, and you have resources for everything. You can’t fail, but the percentages of guys who make it are still the same.”
  • “Generally, spiritual growth is not talked about.”
  • “Spiritual growth should be trained every day.”
  • “We never take any times to yourself because there’s so much ego and glorification of players and you have to bring them back to earth.”
  • “When people stop cheering, now what are you?”
  • “There has to be a balance, mentally and spiritually stable because you don’t know when your career will end.”


Athletes are kept in an adolescent stage – don’t think and follow orders, cultivate skill set but not concerned with mental maturity or coping with issues beyond the rink. How prepared is an athlete to embrace the future? [34:50]

  • Had your handheld and not given the ability to cope
  • As an athlete, you’re taught and are very replaceable
  • Enhance our bottom line in professional sports: “All you’re concerned with is getting enough performance out of an athlete for a period, but once they go away, it’s not MY problem anymore.”
  • You’re a piece of property: “It’s not about keeping someone healthy but instead back out there to play.”


Hockey is one of the longest seasons of them all. Can you talk about the consciousness and mental discipline, not only physical discipline, to be prepared to perform night after night to maintain a level of excellence? [37:50]

  • Fighting regularly to make NHL (Taekwondo, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) to get an edge
  • “Transformed the way I thought in the meathead mentally of “I’m just going to go nuts and embrace this” I was just living off of adrenaline.”
  • After first NHL season, you’re thrown into more anxiety and stress.
  • Married at a young age of 24, but once “I would party, I would party hard but she kept me in check.”
  • “Being so driven by my goal, the first few years, I was on a role. I stayed physically healthy. I got into a role and learned the role. I got some success and got going with it. Once I got injuries, then I got concerned.”
  • Typecast as a fighter and embraced it, to a fault “it consumed me, and I became so unfunctional as a hockey player. I was so worried about gaining weight to fight guys outside of my weight class. I sacrificed speed, agility, mobility to be able to take a bomb from one of these beasts. It was a different mentality that overrode my hockey training mentality.”
  • As a teaching tool, “I tell people to train as functional as you can for the sport you’re training for. Have the strongest core, be as mobile as you can, as lean as you can.”
  • “The weight I’m gaining is making me a better hockey player.”


Speaking to the non-hockey fan: why fighting in the sport is so intrinsic to the balance of power? A necessary evil? [45:50]

  • It has changed a lot in the past five years since retirement. In hockey, you have grown men on the ice with skates fighting for a little rubber puck. It ends up being about accountability and self-policing to protect your best guys.
  • In the early 70’s, they started building teams around intimidating the opponent and bullying them not to play. Emphasizing that “if the other team screwed around with your team, you’d beat of them.” Eventually, all teams everyone got ‘tough guys.’
  • The hockey players self-police: “It’s amazing what a fight can do to bring back the energy to a more balanced mode when things get out of hand.”
  • “When you stare someone in the eye, and you mean business, and you challenge them to a fight, 90%, if not higher, will go away because no one wants to deal with it.”


Having a good enforcer can be a deterrent to mayhem on the ice, but with helmets and official policies, they’re looking to protect players now because it gets rough pretty fast. [51:00]

  • “There are injuries involved in fighting; it’s the nature of the beast.”
  • “3-4% of concussions come from fighting, so that means 95% comes from shoulder, elbow or something else during a hockey play. You have to protect your players.”
  • “Lack of respect now because there’s no accountability so now you see more headshots than before.”
  • “Self-policing breeds respect as barbaric as it looks from the outside; it’s a very peaceful, warrior gesture. It’s two guys willingly fighting. Not one guy jumping another and fighting.”
  • “There’s so much honor in fighting. Beforehand, you ask about one another’s wives, or buddy then pat each other on the back and say a great job when done. That respect and those emotions are different than what the team or fans get out of it.”
  • Standing up to the bully: “Respect is not given, it’s earned.”


When we say omni athlete to you, what comes to mind and resonates bringing it all together to maximize peak performance, getting in the zone and staying there when the stakes are the highest? [56:50]

  • Aligning spirit, mind, and body, “I was so focused on the physical body but need to bring all things together and the balance of it all.”
  • As an athlete, “If it all breaks down, where are you emotionally? Spiritually? What are you doing to recover and come back a better athlete and person?”
  • Getting into yoga and meditation earlier is how you connect all three
  • “It’s not talking about religion; it’s about connecting you to yourself. Spending time with yourself. We spend so much time with the physical body. As an athlete, that’s all we do. So we need to spend time with positive people, laughing, yoga and meditation and feeding our spirit. Minimizing the number of times we go out and engage in destructive behaviors. The more we do that, the more balance we bring. It helps us as an athlete and for the inevitable; a stronger, more mature, spiritual being.”
  • “This should be a conversation in early ages before you get money into it. You play this game because you love it, but you also have to love yourself and be sustainable. Align everything. Certainly what I didn’t use as an approach but that’s what life’s all about: learning these lessons and passing them on to younger generations.”


Links Mentioned in Podcast

Learn more about Athletes for Care

Pulled Quotes

“Obviously there’s not a whole lot of empathy in business to begin with let alone corporate sports…” [3:09]
“Sometimes you gotta hit rock bottom to find yourself.” [7:43]
“I attribute my mental health and my condition now, to my cannabis use.” [18:53]
“You don’t know when your career is going to end. [33:18]



Eben Britton
Chris Borland



OMNI Athlete Weekly

Get physical, mental, emotional and spiritual performance tips delivered directly to your inbox!