The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that hockey great Wayne Gretzky knew of the gambling ring allegedly being run by his assistant coach Rich Tocchet. New Jersey law enforcement sources told the paper that Gretzky was caught on wiretaps discussing the ring, though there is no evidence that Gretzky, now a coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, ever placed any bets. His wife, actress Janet Jones, participated in the ring, which placed over $1.7 million worth of bets over the past six weeks. Investigators are looking at whether or not Jones placed bets as a proxy for her husband. She was active in the ring even up to last week, when she placed $75,000 in bets on the Super Bowl (no word on whether she bet for the world champion Steelers).
Tocchet has been charged with money laundering, promoting gambling, and conspiracy. He was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the NHL by commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday. Reports have a half-dozen current NHL players being involved in the ring, which allegedly has ties to Philadelphia-area organized crime. There’s no indication as of yet from law enforcement that any bets were placed on hockey games, which would warrant making Tocchet’s ban permanent a la Pete Rose.
If Gretzky is involved, he needs to come clean about his and his wife’s actions NOW. He is hockey’s greatest ambassador, and the sport has had enough black eyes over the past two years that any stalling will just look like there’s something to hide.