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Gretzky could be in great trouble


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Updated: Feb. 9, 2006, 8:27 AM ET

Report: Gretzky knew about gambling ring

ESPN.com news services

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Wayne Gretzky knew about a gambling ring involving his wife and assistant coach, the Newark Star-Ledger reported, citing law enforcement officials who had seen the contents of state wiretaps.

The Star-Ledger reported in Thursday's editions that there is no evidence that Gretzky placed bets, but investigators are looking into whether his wife, Janet Jones, placed them for him.

Gretzky has said that he had no knowledge of the gambling ring.

"The reality is, I'm not involved, I wasn't involved and I'm not going to be involved," Gretzky said Tuesday. "Am I concerned for both of them? Sure there's concern from me. I'm more worried about them than me."

Law enforcement officials told the New Jersey newspaper that Jones bet $500,000 in recent weeks, including $75,000 in Super Bowl wagers.

Rick Tocchet, Gretzky's friend and assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, was granted an indefinite leave of absence Wednesday night by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, a day after New Jersey police accused him of financing a nationwide gambling operation that took bets from about a half-dozen current players, among other bettors.

Tocchet is expected to be arraigned in the next two weeks, and Gretzky could be subpoenaed to testify before a New Jersey grand jury, the Star-Ledger reported.

Jones hasn't made any public statements, but Gretzky said Tuesday that she would answer questions at some point.

Coyotes vice president of communications Richard Nairn declined to comment to the Star-Ledger about Gretzky's knowledge of the case.

The NHL Players' Association posted a message on a secure web site Wednesday advising any players who are contacted by law enforcement authorities or the league to contact their lawyer "before talking to anyone," the Toronto Star reported.

Tocchet came to the meeting with his new attorney, who officially informed Bettman and Cleary of the pending charges that Tocchet is facing.

On the advice of attorney Kevin Marino, Tocchet wasn't prepared to respond to specific questions about the allegations, the NHL said in a news release. It was at the end of the meeting that Tocchet requested the leave of absence.

Bettman agreed to the leave as long as several conditions were met. Tocchet must immediately cease all contact and communication with NHL and team personnel and stay away for the duration of his leave. He will not be allowed to return without Bettman's consent.

The commissioner also reserved the right to change the terms of Tocchet's absence at any time.

"We view the charges against Mr. Tocchet in the most serious terms," Bettman said in a statement. "We have pledged our full cooperation to the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office."

The NHL hired former federal prosecutor Robert J. Cleary, who headed the Unabomber case, to investigate Tocchet.

New Jersey authorities told the NHL on Wednesday that nothing has come to their attention that indicates the gambling activities relate in any way to league games. None of the players were identified in the complaint.

"While there is speculation as to which other NHL personnel may have been involved in this matter, we continue to await guidance in that regard from the New Jersey law enforcement authorities," Bettman said.

State police Col. Rick Fuentes said an investigation into the New Jersey-based ring discovered the processing of more than 1,000 wagers, exceeding $1.7 million over several weeks, on professional and college sports, mostly football and basketball.

Marino called the state's charges against his new client "false and irresponsible."

"Mr. Tocchet is one of the most well-respected men ever to play in the NHL, and he's respected for his integrity, his determination and his strength," the Newark-based lawyer said. "We deeply regret the attorney general's precipitous charges and are appalled at the ensuing media frenzy."

Cleary was the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey from 1999-02 and in the Southern District of Illinois in 2002. he also was the lead prosecutor from 1996-98 in the case against Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, who was sentenced to four lifetimes in prison on charges related to three deaths and the maiming of two scientists.

New Jersey State Police Lt. Gerald Lewis said police investigators will interview other hockey players to get a sense of the scope of the gambling ring and to determine whether others should be charged.

Lewis said authorities also were exploring links between the gambling and Philadelphia-area mobsters. He said the investigation so far has only turned up that there might be some links, but not exactly what they were.

He also declined to reveal which players will be interviewed.

Hockey players are prohibited from making NHL wagers, legal or otherwise. There are no rules that forbid them from betting on other sports.

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I don't buy it.

So he and his wife gamble. Big deal.So do Micahel Jordan. ANd Bill Bennett. And John Mccain. And probably most of us.

Get a show of hands how many people on this boad have either been in a casino or bet on an event with a bookie?

Me -hands up on both.

Unless they get someone passing secret inside info to the mob, there's nothing here. A cop may lose his job, and Tocchet, as basically a bookmaker, is done as an NHL coach.

I'll take the press seriously when the likes of Mike Lupica demands the Daily News drops the daily line permanently, along with all those Friday football betting columns, as vigorously as they go after Gretzky.

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