Bettman should look into off-season testing, now

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

So, we see that Gary Bettman is heading to the U.S. Congress and he is bringing Paul Kelly with him.

Not even the militants in the union can question this date.

Both have been invited, along with the heads of the three other major professional leagues and unions, to address the Congressmen on Feb. 27 in Washington as part of the sub-committee examination of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, otherwise known as the decline of Roger Clemens.

The NHL is not the big fish in that pond and this is one time when it's not entirely nice to be invited with the big boys. But it is also an invitation you can't refuse.

The NHL has long insisted it does not have a problem with performance-enhancing drugs, despite what Dick Pound says. The NHL also has the data to back up the claims, though some would argue that the drug-testing procedures in the NHL, while a vast improvement over what didn't exist before the lockout, still do not go far enough so as to eliminate all doubts.

Meaning that, while players can be tested two or three times a year without notice, there is no testing in the summer. So, there is an element of doubt.

While Congress is contemplating passing a law to force mandatory blood-testing -- which none of the leagues or unions would necessarily support -- a pre-emptive step for the NHL especially would be to offer up the off-season testing. If there is nothing to hide, then are no worries in doing it. Strike before Congress orders it and perhaps they also lose the pursuit of blood-testing, which is invasive and perhaps unnecessary.

The best-case scenario is by being pro-active and implementing off-season testing, without a Congressional push, it further proves the point that there is not a problem in the game, it will either catch or deter any who might be juicing in the summer and it should be enough to keep Congress happy. It's win-win-win.

PET PEEVE

For whatever reasons, there are several teams that still don't include salary and term when they announce the signing of a player. Nashville and Carolina have been the exceptions, but the majority routinely state that club policy dictates the financials not be included.

But why?

It matters not that the media always find out, often before the announcement or minutes after. It says here that the teams and the league have an obligation to their fans to announce it for reasons of accuracy and respect. Now, more than ever, the NHL is driven by dollars. That is the reality of a salary cap world. Thus, how much a player earns and for how long is vitally important. And, last time we checked, there is salary disclosure, so they are not exactly telling secrets.

If you expect fans to pay attention, to care about a team and its future, to play along as an armchair general manager, they need to fully understand what is going on. For the passionate fan, all of that matters. And also, the last time we checked, the NHL was in need of more passionate fans.

Part of being one involves knowing the impact of a signing on the team's cap, how much money it has left, how close it is to the ceiling or the basement. All of that information is available if people want to search hard enough and do the work. But it's one thing to make the media search for it, it's another entirely to expect the fans to do it.

Information is important. Accuracy is important. Fans are important. It's time to change "club" policy.

ONE LAST CHANCE

The question was asked the other day: Can the New York Islanders put Chris Simon on the ice and feel confident he won't do something stupid? The answer is no. History has provided that answer, not opinion. The hope is that the latest suspension, a whopping 30 games on the heels of a whopping 25 games for, this time, kicking and stomping Jarkko Ruutu, will be the deterrent that works.

This much we do know for certain: If there is a next time, it will be the last time. And the NHL won't have to suspend Simon for life, though it likely will try. There just won't be a team that touches him. Not even the Islanders, who have been good to stick with him as long as they have, would have the appetite.

Maybe that bit of reality will be the deterrent that works.


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