Gretzky: Scandal won't distract Team Canada

Updated: February 13, 2006, 10:18 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario -- Wayne Gretzky sidestepped questions about the gambling investigation that has engulfed him and his wife and insisted Monday he won't distract the Canadian Olympic team despite a scandal that has shaken all of hockey.

Gretzky spoke for just 4½ minutes in a news conference cut off by a Hockey Canada official when the NHL great was repeatedly asked about the integrity of the game.

"That's not for me to talk about," Gretzky said.

Gretzky's shoulders sagged at one point, and he reacted with a nervous laugh a couple times. On several occasions, a team official said Gretzky would take only game-related questions.

"There's no story about me, that's what I keep trying to tell you. I'm not involved," Gretzky said.

This was Gretzky's final media availability before he left for Torino. The Canadian team was to fly from Toronto's Pearson International Airport after practice.

Gretzky and his wife, three of their five children, Gretzky's father, and one of his brothers were all aboard the plane that flew from Toronto to Italy with Team Canada for the Torino Games.

Gretzky wanted to discuss Canada's defense of its gold medal. The Phoenix Coyotes coach declined to take questions about a gambling ring that authorities said was financed by Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet and allegedly took bets from Jones Gretzky.

"Not much really to add to what I said two days ago," Gretzky said after practice at a rink in suburban Toronto. "Nothing for me to talk about. I'm not involved. It's been a hard week for my family.

"The only focus I have right now is this hockey team getting ready for the Olympic Games," he said.

Philadelphia Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, an assistant on the Canadian squad, said the players are so focused on a gold medal that he doesn't think they "would dare let something like this distraction get in their way."

Gretzky acknowledges the pressure on Canada to repeat as gold medalists.

"They're always under the microscope," he said. "We're a team that's always looked upon to winning gold medals. This will be no different."

New Jersey authorities announced charges last week against Tocchet, a New Jersey state trooper and another New Jersey man for running a nationwide sports gambling operation. State police said wagers -- primarily on professional football -- exceeded $1.7 million in the five weeks leading to the Super Bowl. Tocchet is on an indefinite leave from the Coyotes.

Janet Jones Gretzky has not been charged with any crime but is expected to be subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating gambling activity, attorneys said.

Gretzky is in his first season as Phoenix's coach. The investigation is the latest burden in what has been a tough two-month stretch for him.

Gretzky's mother, Phyllis, died of lung cancer on Dec. 19. Three weeks later, his grandmother died.

Canadian national team players arrived by bus in Mississauga, an hour east of Gretzky's hometown of Brantford, in the early afternoon. About 100 fans cheered the players, and one fan held a poster-sized picture of Gretzky in a Los Angeles Kings uniform.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.