The National Hockey League believes it has settled one of the most disturbing questions of the Rick Tocchet gambling story -- that its players did not bet on league games.
"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," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday. "There is no evidence the integrity of any NHL games was at stake."
Daly says the NHL's investigation, led by former federal prosecutor Robert Cleary, is moving in "lockstep" with New Jersey authorities. Up to a dozen, as yet, unidentified NHLers are being checked as part of the case, according to the Jersey state police.
Meanwhile, Tocchet's lawyer has successfully lobbied to have his client's first court appearance cancelled. Tocchet received a New Jersey arrest summons last week in Phoenix amidst allegations he was promoting gambling and was involved in money laundering and conspiracy, all second degree felonies.
Newark-based Kevin Marino had the right to approach the judge and have the scheduled court date on Tuesday dropped.
"In light of the illegal press leaks that have plagued this matter and the gross mischaracterization of this case that has appeared in the international media, we are extremely pleased that Rick will not be subject to the further public humiliation that a first appearance would entail," Marino said in a statement.
Wayne Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, has been linked to the ring allegedly run by Tocchet, associate coach of Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes. Jones is alleged to have placed large bets through Tocchet. Tocchet, New Jersey state trooper James Harney and James Ulmer are accused of running a ring that authorities say handled $1.7 million US in bets during the six weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
"The defence attorneys of all three men filed to waive Tuesday's appearance," Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the state Attorney General, said yesterday. "No new date has been set and the investigation continues."
The state can continue forming its case to present to a grand jury.
Daly says the case may cause league officials to change their gambling policy, which currently does not ban players from betting legally on other sports.