Tocchet due in court

Tocchet due in court

Tocchet due in court
Thu, May 24, 2007
By Associated Press

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- Rick Tocchet, the former hockey star and Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach at the center of a gambling ring investigation, was due in court Friday for an unspecified reason.

The state Attorney General's Office announced the scheduled appearance. Neither Tocchet's lawyer, Kevin Marino, nor David Wald, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office would comment.

But unexpected court appearances can often signal a defendant is entering a guilty plea.

Tocchet, 42, was charged, with much fanfare, in February 2006 with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy.

Authorities said the bettors in the case included Janet Jones, the wife of hockey legend and current Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, and some others connected with hockey who were not identified.

More than 15 months after the charge, Tocchet had still not been indicted, or formally charged by a grand jury.

He has been on indefinite leave from his Coyotes job since the charges were announced.

In the meantime, the two other men charged in the case pleaded guilty and agreed to help prosecutors.

Former state Trooper James Harney pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy, promoting gambling and official misconduct and faces up to seven years in state prison when he's sentenced.

Businessman James Ulmer pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy and promoting gambling. Prosecutors said they would ask a judge to sentence him to less than a year in jail.

When Harney pleaded guilty last year, he and his lawyer gave a detailed account of how the gambling ring worked.

Harney said he and Tocchet were equal partners in the ring. The hockey star brought in six bettors and shared revenue with the former trooper. Tocchet would sometimes cover losses, he said. Ulmer had a smaller role, he told a judge, bringing in bettors and getting a percentage of their losses.

Harney said that mobsters were not involved in the ring, which he said operated for about five years.

Authorities said the ring handled $1.7 million in bets over a 40-day stretch in 2005 and 2006 that included college football bowl games and the Super Bowl.

NHL officials hired a lawyer to investigate and say there is no evidence anyone in the ring wagered on hockey.

Under New Jersey law, it is not a crime to place a bet, even if the wager is with a bookie. People who place bets for others can be prosecuted, however, as can people who profit off someone else's bets.

In this case, authorities have said no bettors would be charged.

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Former NHL player pleads guilty in N.J. gambling ring case
May 25, 2007

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (AP) -Former NHL player Rick Tocchet pleaded guilty Friday to running a sports gambling ring, but might not have to serve any jail time.

Tocchet, who played for Phialdelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and Phoenix in a career that spanned 22 seasons, is on leave from his job as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. Such offenses usually do not carry a jail sentence for first-time offenders.

The 43-year-old Tocchet is the third man to plead guilty in the case, which New Jersey authorities dubbed ``Operation Slapshot.'' The others are expected to get jail time.

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Tocchet's plea could open door to return to coaching
May 25, 2007

PHOENIX (AP) -Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet's plea to gambling charges may open the door for his return to work after more than a year on leave.

Coach Wayne Gretzky has said he wants Tocchet back. So the decision appears to be in the hands of the NHL after Tocchet pleaded guilty Friday to promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling in a plea deal that may spare him jail time.

Tocchet has been on an NHL-approved leave of absence since the case broke in February 2006. League officials would not comment on whether he might be allowed to return.

In response to questions about Tocchet's future with the team, the Coyotes issued a statement: ``The Phoenix Coyotes will await the completion of the National Hockey League's investigation and will support whatever decision the Commissioner may render regarding Mr. Tocchet's status.''

Calls to Gretzky were not immediately returned Friday.

Last month, Gretzky said that he would like Tocchet, a longtime friend, to replace Barry Smith, who resigned as Phoenix's associate coach to take a coaching position in the Russian Elite League.

The fiery 43-year-old Tocchet would balance Gretzky's calmer approach with players. Gretzky made it clear he would not rush to hire another coach in the hopes that Tocchet's case would be resolved.

``I'm going to wait, absolutely,'' Gretzky said in April. ``That would be my choice, and I know the players would like it, so that's where I'm at.''

Gretzky was drawn into the betting scandal when it was revealed that his wife, actress Janet Jones, had placed wagers. Gretzky was caught on an investigative wiretap discussing how his wife could avoid being implicated.

Neither Jones nor any other bettors were charged because placing bets - even with a bookmaker - is not illegal in New Jersey.

Frustrated after missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, the Coyotes shook up the front office at season's end, firing general manager Mike Barnett, among others.

Team officials are reported to be close to selecting a new general manager.

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Tocchet's plea could open door to return to coaching

I don't see him getting back in the NHL  ???

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mvbski wrote:



Tocchet's plea could open door to return to coaching

I don't see him getting back in the NHL  ???

Tocchet should have no place in NHL
By Scott Bordow
Tribune Columnist

Short of committing a felony - and getting caught - there is little a professional athlete can do to make himself a pariah. Drugs? There's always a second chance. A DUI arrest? Counseling and some harsh words. Dogfighting on your property? I wasn't there, officer. But there is one unforgivable sin: illegal gambling.

Even the whisper of a gambling scandal threatens the integrity of a sport.

The public understands that athletes are not role models. They accept their flaws.

But the popularity of sports is dependent on the games being fairly decided. Once that truth is violated, a sport is forever compromised.

Which is why former Coyotes assistant Rick Tocchet should be permanently banned by the NHL.

Let's be clear: In pleading guilty Friday to running a sports gambling ring, Tocchet did not admit to betting on hockey or taking bets on NHL games. Prosecutors said no bets on hockey games were included in the $1.7 million in wagers the ring took in during a 40-day stretch that began at the end of 2005.

That fact, however, does not diminish the seriousness of Tocchet's offense or the danger it posed to the NHL. It is naive to think that had the gambling ring continued to operate, neither Tocchet nor his two partners would have ever taken a bet on a hockey game.

More tangibly, Tocchet's involvement created a serious image problem for the NHL. When he was arrested back in February of 2006, one question immediately came to mind:

Did he bet on any NHL games?

No sports league can afford to have that cloud over its head. It's why commissioners from Pete Rozelle to Bowie Kuhn to Fay Vincent have reacted so swiftly and sternly when confronted with accusations of gambling.

The NHL's muted response Friday, then, is puzzling. Spokesman Frank Brown said the league will have no comment until its investigation into the case is completed.

What is there still to determine?

Tocchet pled guilty to running a gambling ring. How can the NHL ever think about allowing him behind a bench again?

If any team should want to run from Tocchet as quickly as possible, it's the Coyotes. They had to live through the nightmare of his arrest and the ensuing stories that coach Wayne Gretzky's wife, actress Janet Jones-Gretzky, had placed bets with Tocchet.

Yet Coyotes' CEO Jeff Shumway said the team won't comment until the NHL makes its decision regarding Tocchet's future.

The silence gives Phoenix an easy way out. If the league hands Tocchet a lifetime suspension, Gretzky won't have to say no to his longtime friend.

But what if the NHL leaves the door open?

I can see Gretzky, an incredibly compassionate man, wanting to give Tocchet a second chance.

It would be a noble gesture, but a misguided one.

Tocchet knew what he was doing when he was placing wagers for friends and associates. He knew that the NHL - and every sports league - took a hard line when it came to illegal gambling. Yet he continued to run the gambling ring. He continued to put the league he loves in jeopardy.

For that, there is no place for him in the NHL.

He made his bet.

Now he has to pay for it.

www.eastvalleytribune.com

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