The NHL needs to strengthen its drug testing programme but progress is being made towards getting the league on board the anti-doping bandwagon, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said.
While the NHL's anti-doping protocols are seen as the softest among the big four North American professional sports (MLB, NBA, NFL) league commissioner Gary Bettman has recently reached out to WADA to discuss how to toughen standards.
Currently the NHL has no out-of-competition testing and there is no testing conducted during the NHL playoffs. Players can be tested a maximum of three times during the season.
The league has hinted that it will seek tougher testing and sanctions when it opens negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"I am disappointed," WADA president John Fahey said on Monday during a conference call following weekend meetings in Montreal. "The fact is there's a lot more work to be done here, but there is dialogue.
"I assure you as we come to the conclusion of another season that there is a programme ahead, particularly in the off-season, to continue to work through these issues."
After years of confrontation WADA and the NHL have begun to have regular talks about doping issues with the league taking a more active role in promoting the fight against performance-enhancing drugs in sport.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) unveiled a new "Say No to Doping" campaign at the world championships currently being staged in Germany that features NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
"The Say No to Doping programme which the International Ice Hockey Federation is using is a significant advancement which was helped by the NHL," WADA director general David Howman told Reuters.
"They gave players the right to make to comments which you can't normally get without going through the Collective Agreement and the players association.
"That's a shift. There is now some movement, everyone is prepared to talk to us.
"We recently had a meeting with Gary and there was a change in attitude and they are prepared to talk.
"I think they felt before that they were being bullied and they don't want to be bullied into anything.
"It's their organisation, they don't want anyone coming in telling them how to run their business.
"The change has come from a different attitude from them and us."
(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Steve Ginsburg; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)