SUN Hockey Pool

Bettman doubts drug-test tipoff

Former NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard. (ERIC MILLER/Reuters file photo)

Former NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard. (ERIC MILLER/Reuters file photo)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:49 PM ET

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. - Commissioner Gary Bettman scoffed at a published report that late NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard was given four days notice of a pending drug test during the 2010-11 season.

The allegation was made in a New York Times feature on Boogaard published this week. It said Len Boogaard, Derek's father, was "surprised to hear from his son that he had been given four days' notice for his next drug test."

As NHL board of governors meetings wrapped up Tuesday, Bettman was asked about the New York Rangers, Boogaard's team at the time, tipping Boogaard off about the drug test, although the Rangers were not implicated in the story.

"It's not anything I'm aware of, and I doubt it," Bettman said. "None of our teams know four days in advance when they're being tested."

Boogaard, 28, died in May of an overdose of alcohol and painkillers.

• Bettman said the league's move to Plexiglas in all its rinks and the implementation of rounded glass in the area of the benches has helped lower the number of concussions this season compared with this point last season.

• The NHL's new alignment plan has to be discussed with the NHL Players' Association, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he's confident it would go ahead.

"I don't anticipate there are going to be any issues," Daly said.

• It's interesting to hear at these meetings the change in the NHL's attitude toward its ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes. The NHL is leaving the door open now to continue the status quo. After Dec. 31, the NHL can legally pursue selling the team and moving it to another market, but Daly said the NHL is not in a rush to do that.

"There are interested purchasers right now in the Coyotes, we're continuing to work with them. We hope we get to a resolution," Daly said. "Obviously we've owned the club now for more than two years. It has taken a while to get to the finish line. We're not there yet, but we're still working on it."

Unlike the Atlanta Thrashers situation and Winnipeg, the NHL doesn't have a turn-key opportunity -- an ownership group and an arena ready to go -- as a viable option for the Coyotes.

As far as Quebec City as a potential site, Daly said: "I don't think anything has progressed to the stage where there's an ownership group in Quebec City. I think there are potentially a number of potential ownership groups in Quebec City, there a number of potential ownership groups in a number of other cities, as well."

• The governors got an update on the collective-bargaining situation, mostly in a briefing on what has happened in the other sports (both Major League Baseball and the NBA negotiated new deals recently). Negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA aren't expected to begin until after the all-star game at the end of next month.

"It's a better feeling than the last time around (which resulted in a lost season in 2004 because of the lockout), but until we know what the other side is asking or expecting, it's kind of an odd feeling, quite frankly," Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe said. "I guess we'll know in a couple of months where we stand. Really, at the end of the day what really matters is, from the NHL side, what needs to be fixed? In 2004, it was quite evident in the room that there needed to be significant change. From what I understand now, there is going to be a need for some change this time around.

"The co-operation that has happened in the other leagues recently is a positive sign. There doesn't appear to be any doom and gloom on the horizon, but I guess we'll know in a few months."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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