TORONTO (AP) -Mark Bell was cleared to play by doctors in the NHL's substance abuse program on Tuesday, but the new Toronto Maple Leafs forward will now have to serve the 15-game suspension handed down by the league.
Bell was suspended indefinitely on Sept. 4 and placed into Stage 2 of the program, run jointly by the NHL and the players' association. He entered the program in September 2006 following his arrest on drunken driving and hit-and-run charges in California when he was a member of the San Jose Sharks.
The NHL added a 15-game suspension for Bell on Sept. 12, and he is eligible to return on Nov. 6 when the Maple Leafs play the visiting Ottawa Senators.
He will continue with the follow-up care phase of the substance abuse program. The program's doctors, Dr. Dave Lewis on behalf of the NHL and Dr. Brian Shaw on behalf of the NHLPA, administer Bell's care.
Bell, 27, pleaded no contest to the criminal charges against him and is due to serve six months in a California county jail at the end of the season. He said he hasn't had a drink since his arrest.
Bell was arrested after his car rear-ended a pickup truck in an early morning accident in Milpitas, Calif., a town in the San Jose foothills. The driver of the truck received head injuries and cuts.
The Maple Leafs acquired Bell in June along with goalie Vesa Toskala in a trade with the Sharks. Bell had 11 goals and 10 assists in 71 regular-season games last season with San Jose.
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