Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

Where the beer is cold and the conversation loud...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hockey Gambling

In case you missed it yesterday, Rick Tocchet, assistant coach of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, was busted yesterday on charges of funding an illegal sports gambling ring based out of New Jersey. Tocchet, who spent his career with 7 different NHL teams, including the Bruins, is charged with having provided the funding for the venture that included the help of a Jersey state trooper. Investigators have traced over 1000 bets in the amount of $1.7 million to the ring. Articles yesterday discussed at least a dozen NHL players being involved as well as the wife of hockey legend and Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.

So why talk about this? Simple. To me, it's only a matter of time before we find out that Janet Jones-Gretzky (who looked absolutely amazing in League of Their Own) was placing bets not for herself but for her husband. Let's face facts here, not many of us know a lot of women who have the ability to understand enough about sports to accurately wager on them. Period. That's not meant as a slight against women in general, but a statement of fact. Jones doesn't exactly look like the brightest bulb in the lamp. These 12 NHL players are, thus far, not accused of betting on hockey. Is it that these slips are more difficult to track? It's conceivable. Course, they may not have at all. Whatever the case, suspensions ARE warranted based on the individuals involved. Players in such high profile positions obviously need to be held to the same standard as every average Joe. There is no way we'd keep our jobs if convicted of various felonies. But, we don't play for the Ravens or Cowboys. It's also the reason I felt Sean Locklear should have been suspended, with pay, for the NFC title game. You have to be accountable for your actions. If you're being investigated for some sort of illegal activity, that company holds the right to tell you not to come in until things have been cleared up. In fact, not doing so represents a level of ignorance and reflects an attitude that outsiders should be concerned about.

Sports tends to be harder on sports gambling than on any other type of infraction strictly because of the manner in which the spiral can lead. First it's betting on one sport, then two, then eventually, your own. Obviously, we all know the story of Pete Rose. These players and the league have a lot to worry about. The league has been busy trying to rehab an image that was destroyed by the lockout. The players have legal ramifications and career problems to worry about in addition to any sort of court time that may result. Rightfully so. My stance is simple. If we're talking about bets on college basketball or NFL football, this is no different than the way we all have placed bets with friends or online in order to make a little money or make things more fun and interesting. While there will be a punishment, because let's face it this is illegal, it should not be anywhere near as severe as if there is any sort of trace that can be linked back to hockey itself. These guys have too much influence on the game itself, know too many people involved, to not make this a Pete Rose type of situation. There is a code hung in every locker room identifying the problems with sports gambling and steroids. It's a simple rule that must be adhered to. Let's hope for the sake of the game of hockey that this is kept to fringe players and that there is nothing to tarnish the image of one of the true legends of the game.

My opinion, regardless of anything, there should be suspensions. Illegal activity results in you getting suspended from your job, but with pay. Convictions should be handled more severely. But, to me, that should be the case in everything. That's how we would be treated, but we don't play for the Ravens or Cowboys.

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