SUN Hockey Pool

Scandal puts NHL up front

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Could the gambling controversy now shadowing Wayne Gretzky, his wife Janet, Rick Tocchet and unnamed National Hockey Leaguers somehow help the game's profile among average American sports fans?

"I actually think it's not a bad thing as long as it is confined and (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman deals with it aggressively," Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sports Corp Ltd. consulting, told New York Newsday. "This actually puts hockey more on the news pages, not necessarily in the way you want it, but it still is a cover story. Wayne Gretzky and his beautiful wife are good art, and that always attracts attention. The more casual fan might say: 'Wait a minute. Hockey season is going on!' "

But Newsday also spoke to David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, who said the league's post-lockout image will suffer.

"The NHL needs this to go away soon," Carter said. "It could be a drip, drip, drip the rest of the season ... if the only time the everyday fan gets exposed to hockey is with a scandal, that doesn't help."

Tocchet and two other men are facing gambling-related charges in New Jersey. No request has been made from state police to enlist help from Canadian law enforcement branches in the investigation.

Brown back in town

The depleted Marlies expect to have NHL veteran defenceman Brad Brown back in the lineup tonight when they begin key back-to-back home games.

Brown has been out since Jan. 10 with an abdominal pull.

"Brad's an important guy and it became especially hard on us after we lost some defencemen (Jay Harrison and Andy Wozniewski) to the Maple Leafs," Marlies coach Paul Maurice said yesterday.

Both Harrison and Wozniewski were returned to the farm for the Olympic break. Toronto meets the Syracuse Crunch at Ricoh Coliseum at 7:30 p.m. tonight (The Score) and then the Rochester Americans at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Leafs TV).

Syracuse is the club right ahead in front of the fourth-place Marlies in the AHL's Northern Division, while Rochester is directly behind them.


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