Unless you post comments under the name sportsfanaticlrb112 and prefer poetry and carnival equipment to sports news, you no doubt heard that former Philadelphia Flyer enforcer Rick Tocchet was indicted Tuesday for allegedly financing a sports gambling ring. The ring was based out of southern New Jersey and was discovered after an 8 month probe unearthed over 1000 wagers worth over $1.7 million on professional and college football and basketball games. No wagers were made on hockey games or other lesser sporting events.
As many as "12 NHL players or people closely associated with NHL clubs" are believed to have placed bets with Tocchet's organization. Among those allegedly involved are Mark Recchi, Jeremy Roenick, an owner of an NHL franchise, and Janet Jones, wife of Wayne Gretzky. Tocchet, who is currently an assistant coach under Gretzky with the Phoenix Coyotes, only would say that "It's not a hockey-related issue, it's a football thing. And at this time I can't comment any further." He was summoned to New York to meet with NHL commish Gary Bettman, presumably to be given a 5 minute major for money laundering.
Of course, the best part of the story is that the ring had ties to the Bruno-Scarfo crime family of Philadelphia. Details are not yet known as to how much involvement the mob had in the betting ring, but the possibilities are intriguing. Did Tocchet make connections with the family while playing for the Flyers in Philly? Or perhaps Tocchet (and his New Jersey state police officer accomplice) originally set up shop without permission from the mob. It is clearly not a good idea to start a high stakes gambling syndicate in organized crime's backyard without its blessing, but of course Tocchet did fist-fight on ice skates for a living. Personally I hope the mob did have to use strong arm tactics to get a piece of the action, because I enjoy picturing an enraged capo sending over Tie Domi and Stu Grimson to shake Tocchet down and demand tribute.
There are also other interesting plot lines to follow as this story plays out. Which NHL players placed bets with the ring and what will their punishment be? Was Janet Jones placing bets on Gretzky's behalf? The Great One denies any involvement but it is somewhat hard to believe that a 45 year old mother was placing tens of thousands of dollars on football games. Which NHL owner will be implicated? Isn't sports gambling a pretty serious infraction for the owner of any professional franchise? Was "Operation Slap Shot" really the best name that authorities could think of for their investigation? I would have gone with "Operation Zamboni Alfredo" or "Operation Pucked in the Ass." (Other suggestions are welcome.)
This has the potential to get ugly, and if it does, hockey might actually get discussed regularly on Noobsports.