As the top farm system of the NHL, the American Hockey League has often mirrored its parent circuit. One area where that apparently hadn't already been the case was when it came to drug testing. That's why the two leagues announced Thursday that they are teaming up for an education and drug testing program for AHL players effective for the 2014-15 season.
More from the joint press release from the two leagues:
The details of the AHL program, which was the result of a collaborative effort between the two leagues (NHL and AHL), the National Hockey League Players' Association and the Professional Hockey Players' Association (which represents AHL players in collective bargaining), substantially replicate the collectively bargained policies already in place for NHL players.
The AHL drug testing program will be administered by the doctors who supervise the NHL/NHLPA Performance-Enhancing Substances Program and the Substance Abuse/Behavioral Health Program.
According to former minor league player turned hockey writer Justin Bourne, there wasn't much of a policy in place until now.
Drug testing in the AHL! http://t.co/ZjqA7ujMsO Reminder that the recent policy has been "Have at 'er, fellas."— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) August 28, 2014
Not having much oversight in the minors is pretty risky, you'd have to think. If ever there was a place where performance enhancers could take hold, it's among the players that are desperately trying to make it to the major professional ranks.
The NHL has a responsibility to its players to make sure they are making good decisions about their health and wellbeing long before they make it to the top league. And that doesn't just pertain to performance-enhancing drugs either.
Additionally, considering the high-profile cases of players that had drug issues -- most notably that of Derek Boogaard, the former NHL enforcer who passed away after an accidental overdose in 2011 – both the NHL and AHL should be out ahead of this issue.
To have a more uniform system for a league that includes many players under NHL contract or soon to earn NHL contracts just makes a lot of sense. It's actually kind of hard to believe it didn't already exist in this capacity.