Sticking with Wayne

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Until he sees evidence implicating friend and former teammate Wayne Gretzky in the gambling operation alleged by the investigation known as Operation Slap Shot, Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish isn't going to point an accusing finger at No. 99.

"I don't know much about it, other than you never impeach the character of Wayne," MacTavish told reporters at Rexall Place yesterday.

"You've got to go from the reputation, as well. It's a pretty impeccable reputation. If he says he's not involved, he's not involved. I'd stake a lot on that."

The Newark Star-Ledger has reported law enforcement sources indicated state prosecutors have wiretap evidence that Gretzky and Rick Tocchet discussed the multimillion dollar gambling operation at some point before charges of money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy were brought against Tocchet and James E. Harney.

That revelation came in the wake of Gretzky's denial of any involvement on Tuesday.

According to Star-Ledger sources, there is no indication in the wiretap evidence that Gretzky placed bets. Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, is being investigated for placing bets with the organization.

"I give Rick, obviously, the benefit of the doubt," MacTavish said.

"They're all allegations, at this point. Everybody is knee-deep in gambling. Governments are knee-deep in gambling. Casinos here and there are in all the legal forms of gambling that lead to the same thing.

"It's part of the culture of society now. It's a more prominent part of the culture of the society than it's ever been before.

"Until I hear and see the facts, I'm going to, like everybody should, reserve judgment and I certainly won't be one of those people staking out the high moral ground to cast aspersions on Rick until I hear more evidence."

MacTavish was asked about the possibility of Gretzky resigning his post with Team Canada as the investigation continues.

"I think that's ludicrous," he said. "I would be absolutely shocked if that was the case. Nor should he resign.

"I hope he's not under that type of pressure, because I know the type of character he has. Let's just let this calm down a little bit before we go over-reacting to that point."


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