NHL: No proof players bet on league games in ring

Updated: February 18, 2006, 12:00 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

TORINO, Italy -- The NHL has seen no evidence players bet on league games through a gambling ring allegedly operated by Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday.

It was the first public disclosure by the league of the findings of its investigation, which is running in tandem with a criminal probe.

Former NHL star Tocchet, a New Jersey state trooper and a third man are accused of running a ring that authorities say handled $1.7 million in bets during the six weeks leading up to this month's Super Bowl.

"We would have enormous concern about any betting on NHL games, but I can safely say there is no evidence brought to our attention in conversations with the prosecutors and the New Jersey police," Daly said. "There is no evidence the integrity of any NHL games was at stake."

Daly said the NHL's investigation, led by former federal prosecutor Robert Cleary, is moving in "lockstep" with one by New Jersey authorities.

Daly said the case may cause league officials to change their gambling policy, which currently does not ban players from betting legally on other sports.

Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet Jones have been linked to the ring allegedly run by Tocchet, a close friend of Coyotes coach Gretzky. Jones is alleged to have placed large bets through Tocchet.

John Hagerty, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, said Wednesday that Jones Gretzky and others could be called as witnesses in the case but indicated that Jones Gretzky would not be charged because she has not done anything illegal.

On Thursday, Ron Fujikawa, Gretzky's attorney, said that Gretzky will not face criminal charges and is unlikely to be called to testify against others in the case. Fujikawa also said he received assurances from New Jersey authorities last week that the hockey great was not in any way a central figure in the criminal investigation.

Gretzky, the most accomplished player in NHL history, has repeatedly said he placed no bets and that the issue "is over and done with." Gretzky is in Torino as the executive director of defending Olympic gold medalist Canada.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.