Tocchet's guilty plea could open door to return to coaching
PHOENIX -- 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.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
MORE NHL HEADLINES
- Peverley gets standing ovation at Stars game
- Penguins' Neal diagnosed with concussion
- Backstrom to get silver medal despite drug test
- Lundqvist ties Richter for Rangers' win record
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet pleaded guilty and got two years probation for running a sports gambling ring that took in millions of dollars in bets.
• Tocchet rejoins Coyotes after suspension
• Tocchet ready to rejoin Coyotes
• Tocchet ban extended until at least February
• Third man in ring sentenced to probation
• Tocchet gets two years probation
• Tocchet pleads guilty, may avoid jail time
• Tocchet to appear in court
• One year later, Tocchet still in legal limbo
• Man pleads guilty to bookmaking
• Report: Second man to plead guilty
• Cop's sentencing postponed
• Trooper pleads guilty, will cooperate against Tocchet
• Trooper to appear in court
• Groundwork laid for lawsuit
• Burnside: Probe initially shows no evidence of NHL bets
• Jones Gretzky to be subpoenaed
• Report: FBI inadvertently tipped NHL
• NHL says no evidence players bet on games in illegal ring
• Attorney: Gretzky won't be charged
• Tocchet court appearance waived
• Jones Gretzky unlikely to be charged
• Lawyer: No mob connection
• Trooper charged in betting ring downplays allegations
• Kreidler: Gretzky can't shy away
• Burnside: Desert Storm
• Burnside: Hockey's black eye
• Hradek: Bad day for hockey
• Merron: Past gambling scandals
• Tocchet summons
• Additional coverage