Thursday, February 9th, 2006
3:13 pm - The Puck Stops Here...  
ManagementSpeak: "Boy, we dodged a bullet on that one."
Translation: "What's bad isn't that we shot ourselves in the foot. It's how fast we reloaded and fired again."


NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's had an interesting couple of years. First there was the player lock-out that saw the NHL skip an entire season. The fans were irate. ESPN discovered they could make more money covering high school basketball than professional hockey. Ultimately, the owners extracted what they wanted from the players, and the league came back, albeit with no national TV contract. Still, they tweaked the game to up the excitement (bye, bye, red line), and the fans seemed to be coming back.

Now, however, he's looking at another hole in his foot, thanks to, of all people, Wayne Gretzky, the greatest and most popular hockey player in history, not to mention all-around nice guy, who is currently the coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. The bizarre storm broke the other day when the NJ State Police announced an investigation dubbed Operation Slap Shot, complete with handy flow chart. They allege that Rick Tocchet, Gretzky's good friend and assistant coach at Phoenix, was running a multi-million dollar gambling ring. The first bizarre twist to this was that Tocchet's partner was a NJ state trooper who was apparently taking book while on patrol on the southern part of the Jersey Turnpike. The second bizarre twist is that the mysterious female gambler noted on the flow chart turns out to be former actress Janet Jones, a.k.a. Mrs. Wayne Gretzky, who had apparently dropped half a million dollars on football and basketball bets.

Gretzky claims he had no knowledge of any of this until Tocchet told him Monday night, and police say there's no evidence he placed any bets, but you'd think he'd have noticed half a million bucks missing from the housekeeping budget. Also, it turns out the police have Wayne on wiretap tape talking about the gambling ring, although they haven't revealed when the call was made, or what exactly he said.

If any of this is true, it's a stunning blow for hockey, despite Bettman's protestations that at least they weren't betting on hockey. If Gretzky is involved, it's practically unprecedented. It's as if Lou Gehrig gave his going away speech, and was then arrested at home plate for running a numbers ring in the Yankee locker room. I just can't wrap my head around it.

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fatoudust: improbablefatoudust on February 9th, 2006 - 11:36 pm
It's really wildly unbelieveable. So surreal.

But you know, from what little I know, there's got to be no way that Gretz can walk away from it. The SO points out that the Mrs. has barely been active as an "actress" and there's no way those dollars aren't coming from 99's income column and there's no way he doesn't know about it. Telling that he's distancing himself from her, because he must know how totally she's implicated.

It's nuts. Good thing I didn't create that hockey icon after all. I might not need it.
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DXMachinadxmachina on February 10th, 2006 - 12:26 am
Yeah, he had to know, and unfortunately, a lot of the suspicion is that she was placing bets for him. Also, if they file joint tax returns, he's culpable for any tax evasion even if he didn't know a thing.
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(no subject) - askye on February 9th, 2006 - 11:48 pm
DXMachinadxmachina on February 10th, 2006 - 12:34 am
I miss my Hartford Whalers (who are now Carolina). Most of my hockey fannishness occurred concurrent with Gretzky's career, and I was a huge fan of his. He was just amazing to watch. He revolutionized hockey in the same way Babe Ruth revolutionized baseball.

I was watching a piece on the news about one of the US skeleton racers who's been banned from the Olympics because he took Propcia for his baldness. Apparently the ingredient that's gotten these guys banned doen't even enhance performance, but can be used to mask performance enhancers. On one hand, I think that's a massive overreaction, but OTOH the list of ingredients is widely available, and any athlete who takes anything without checking the list is pretty stupid.
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