Gretzky's unpleasant decision

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

TURIN -- Even though Wayne Gretzky has confirmed that he still plans on coming here, the debate over his Olympic involvement with Team Canada will not go away.

It will be widely discussed as the Games of the XX Olympiad begin this afternoon here in this foreign land that looks far too much like Pittsburgh.

It will be talked about as the beaming Canadian Danielle Goyette carries the flag so proudly into the opening ceremony here today.

It will only intensify when he arrives in Turin. "I'm going to Italy on Sunday," Gretzky said last night in Glendale, Ariz. "I'm going to be with Team Canada."

This has nothing to do with presumptions of guilt or innocence, nothing to do with lies already told and stories twisted: This is only about the Olympics first, about Team Canada second, about whether Gretzky should make the trip to Turin and fulfil his role as executive director of the Canadian Olympic hockey team.

Knowing Gretzky, the last thing he would ever want to become is a distraction to Team Canada and in light of the growing gambling scandal to which he is now uniquely linked, and now, how can he be anything but?

And was he honest enough with himself to make the right call? This is supposed to be a big show for the National Hockey League: It can't possibly be in their best interest to have Gretzky here and have a scandal stoking at precisely the same time.

But yet some have argued with passion that by staying home Gretzky would be admitting to some kind of guilt in the ongoing investigation that already has tested his public honesty.

We know some things today that we didn't know yesterday. We know that a police wiretap had Gretzky talking about a gambling situation. We know that Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, won $5,000 betting on the coin flip of the Super Bowl game last Sunday. We know that Gretzky's original premise that he knew nothing about any of this has been been proven false.

We know that Gretzky spoke with Rick Tocchet on a taped telephone conversation and discussed how to clear his wife's name.

We know that police like to shake trees and watch to see what might fall out of them.

That's just the beginning of what we know, and all of that has little or nothing to do with his Olympic involvement, which makes this all the more complicated.

The concern of Gretzky's travelling here with the Canadian team remains more troublesome today than it was yesterday.

There is not a right answer here. Maybe there is no answer at all -- just problems.

No matter how well Gretzky tries to protect himself, when he arrives in Turin, he, not the hockey players, not the potential medal-winners of the weekend, not the Olympic joy, will become the story.

A story that Canadians became involved with a day ago is spreading internationally as we speak. Stories have a way of taking on a life of their own at the Olympics. This is a brush fire that is spreading rapidly. By late yesterday, Americans and Europeans who had little interest in the correlation between Gretzky and Team Canada suddenly were answering calls from editors asking to update the story.

And this is just the beginning.

When Gretzky arrives here with the Canadian team next week, it will get worse rather than better. It will, no matter how he chooses to operate, become a distraction. It will not be in Team Canada's best interests as it begins its quest for a gold medal.

Had he decided to stay home, Gretzky would have injured his own reputation in ways it never has been injured before.

If once upon a time, the addition of Todd Bertuzzi to the team was considered a distraction, imagine what this will be?

Who would have believed Wayne Gretzky as an Olympic distraction or even worse, as part of a police investigation?

An investigation that remains ongoing.

A decision by Gretzky that needed to be made in Team Canada's best interests first, his own second.


Photos