Quinn won't touch 99 issue

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Whether Wayne Gretzky should venture to Turin for the Olympics is not an issue Pat Quinn is willing to wade into.

"I am not even going to get into that sort of thing," Quinn, the coach of Canada's men's hockey team, said. "That is not for me to answer or even think about. We are a team and a group and Wayne is a big part of this group, and we are going to go forward."

Gretzky, the executive director of Team Canada, became further entrenched in the Rick Tocchet gambling scandal yesterday when it was reported Gretzky could be heard on wiretaps discussing with Tocchet the involvement of his wife, Janet Jones, in the gambling ring.

But even before that became public knowledge, the idea that Gretzky not go to Turin because his presence would cause a major distraction was being discussed.

This is a story which will follow Gretzky to Italy. If he had decided to stay in Phoenix, it could not have hurt the hockey team.

The saga has been branching off in many different directions since news of it broke on Tuesday afternoon and there have been rumours surrounding the involvement of players. One bit of speculation that popped up yesterday linked Maple Leafs centre Eric Lindros to the Tocchet story as one of the bettors, but it was quickly shot down by Carl Lindros, Eric's father. Lindros and Tocchet were teammates with the Philadelphia Flyers for a brief time during the 1999-2000 season.

"There is no truth to that," Carl Lindros said. "Who started that?"

Quinn's sole focus once the Canadians get to Turin next Tuesday will be on the team.

"I'm thinking about our hockey team and that is where all the energy is going to get directed," Quinn said. "I'm not even thinking about those sorts of things."

DISTRACTION

That's fine for Quinn to say, but it's clear he and the rest of the coaching staff are going to have to deal with the distraction the issue could cause as Canada defends the gold medal it won in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

"All I know is when our team comes in, we are going to prepare and whatever happens, happens," Quinn said. "We will be focused on what we have all come together to try to do."

Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe acknowledged he doesn't know what to expect since this will be his first Olympics. But he is confident the Canadian players will have the fortitude to put the issue aside.

"I don't think it will take over the spotlight at all," McCabe said. "That stuff will clear up. We are just going over to have some fun, enjoy the experience and bring back gold."

Overall, the Gretzky angle also has the potential to put a black cloud over the sport of hockey in Turin.

"I hope not," Sweden captain Mats Sundin said. "We all have to wait and see how it is all going to unfold. I'm expecting there will be a positive reaction for the guys going over."


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