Leafs F Bell cleared by substance abuse doctors, will start 15-game suspension

TORONTO -- 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.