NHL should buy into OHL policy

RYAN PYETTE

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

There are two reasons why hockey players are tempted by performance-enhancing drugs.

One is to make the NHL.

The other is to stay there.

The OHL, according to commissioner David Branch, will begin the final stage of the new Canadian Hockey League drug policy -- the testing component -- "in mid-November."

It will create continuity in the junior ranks.

The Quebec league started testing four years ago. Finally, all four teams at the next Memorial Cup in Rimouski will operate with the same rules.

But what took so long?

Obviously, money is an issue. Everyone acknowledges testing is important but it doesn't come cheaply. For some rich teams, doling out a few more thousand bucks into the centralized OHL pot is a drop in the bucket. For those who don't draw 5,000 a game, it's a new expense that wasn't there before.

So where's the NHL in all this?

Big-league clubs already pay junior teams a large chunk of cash for developing the star talent they draft. But shouldn't they also have a vested interest in making sure their future skaters come to the pros clean?

NHL clubs already are saving some dough by stocking their rosters with teenaged kids and low-priced talent at entry-level prices. They scrutinize these kids every game they play and send scouts all over the country to watch their every move.

Surely, there are a few extra bucks to make sure everyone's playing fair and safe. It's a great insurance policy for a big-league club to identify a potential problem early on in the process.

Major junior hockey and the pros always are in a symbiotic relationship. For many years, the OHL followed the NHL's example.

But the juniors have recently changed course. They've adopted neck guards and now have an independent drug policy.

All along the way, the OHL preached education as the paramount focus of the drug plan.

Over and over, Branch said it's not about catching cheats but making sure the players have the proper information.

By now, the players should be up to speed.

Drug testing will be administered by officers of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. It will be in-season and random.

There were suggestions tests would occur during the 18-minute break of the second intermission. But Branch nixed that idea and said it would only happen after games.

The good news is testing actually is coming.

But it would've been better if the NHL helped drive it forward.

TAVARES TO FACE RUSSIA

Oshawa Generals forward John Tavares and Belleville Bulls defenceman P.K. Subban headline the OHL's roster for the Canada-Russia Challenge in November.

Players eligible for the Canadian junior team (age 19 and under) were chosen to face a squad of Russian selects Nov. 20 in Guelph and Nov. 24 in St. Catharines.


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