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N.Y.'s Stevens May See Prison

Long removed from his NHL All-Star days, New York Rangers forward Kevin Stevens left an Illinois jail with his career in doubt after his arrest on drug charges.

Stevens, arrested early Sunday at a motel in Collinsville, Ill., was released on bail Monday after being charged with felony drug possession. He also faces misdemeanor charges of soliciting a prostitute and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Stevens, 34, who could face up to three years in prison on the felony drug-possession charge, was arrested with the prostitute hours after the Rangers played the St. Louis Blues.

Police said they found crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia and about $3,000 in the motel room. The player, who is married with two children, was placed in the NHL's substance-abuse program, reportedly for the second time.

"It was chilling when they showed his picture on television," New York goalie Mike Richter said in Atlanta, where the Rangers played the Thrashers on Monday night.

"It seemed so far away. We know Kevin. We know what kind of person he is. It's not the image I saw in that press release."

"It's going to be a difficult thing to lick. He's a strong person and has our unwavering support. It takes time, but it's going to happen."

Stevens was released on $15,000 bail. He was allowed to leave Illinois, on the promise that he would return Feb. 4 for a hearing.

"I'm not sure how long it will take or when this will be over," said Rangers general manager Neil Smith, who visited Stevens at the jail Sunday. "I just want him to rejoin his wife and kids. That is what's most important."

Pamela Velia, 27, of St. Louis, told police Stevens was smoking crack with a glass pipe when she got into a cab with the hockey player, according to authorities. She said Stevens gave her $500 and purchased another $500 worth of cocaine from a street dealer in East St. Louis, Ill.

The cab driver then took Stevens and the woman to a motel, and Stevens paid for a room where the two continued to smoke crack together, police were told. The cab driver, a 50-year-old man, began knocking on the door, and the prostitute feared he had a gun so she called a friend, police said.

The friend, a 30-year-old man, showed up and Stevens gave him some crack, police said. Police believe that man is the woman's pimp, and that he is a member of the Vice Lords Street Gang.

Police were called when someone reported a disturbance at the motel. Velia said she and Stevens didn't have sex because officers arrived too soon.

Velia, the cab driver and the alleged pimp also were charged with felony drug ossession Monday, said Stephanee Smith of the state's attorney's office.

Stevens' substance abuse and behavioral program will be administered by the NHL and its players' association. The program includes medical assessment and in-residence treatment.

"He's a great friend to everybody, not just myself," teammate Petr Nedved said. "Obviously, this thing happened, and we wish him the best."

Stevens, a left wing, has played little recently, but was in the lineup against St. Louis Saturday night. He has three goals and five assists in 38 games.

The three-time All-Star helped Pittsburgh to Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992. He scored 54 goals for Pittsburgh in 1991-92 and had 55 in 1992-93.

The former Boston College star has 318 goals and 371 assists in 13 seasons with Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and New York.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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