Leafs blindsided by betting scandal

Maple Leafs winger Darcy Tucker talks with reporters yesterday following practice at Lakeshore...

Maple Leafs winger Darcy Tucker talks with reporters yesterday following practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena about the NHL's gambling scandal. Tucker called the situation "unfortunate" but refused to discuss it any further. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

The Rick Tocchet gambling-ring saga has come as a shock to the Maple Leafs, but they don't necessarily agree that it will sully the reputation of the National Hockey League.

Though the Tocchet story has dominated the past couple of days, the Leafs believe the NHL can get past it without long-term damage to the game's image. There is the idea this will set the game back in a year when there has been positive publicity after the 2004-05 season was lost because of the lockout.

"I don't think it will hurt the game in an overall sense," centre Jason Allison said. "It has nothing to do with the product or the entertainment we're providing. It might be a big deal for the people involved, but I don't think it will be a big deal for the fans. The fans aren't going to (stop attending games) because a couple of guys had a gambling problem."

Still, the alleged involvement of Wayne Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, who is said to have placed bets, surprised the Leafs.

"It's kind of stunning considering his wife was named," Wade Belak said. "Who knows? Hopefully nothing comes out of this."

Not all of the Leafs were comfortable discussing the Tocchet story. Darcy Tucker said it was "unfortunate what happened" but was adamant he would answer no more questions on the subject.

"Some guys play cards, that's the way it is," Tucker said before clamming up.

Coach Pat Quinn also was not prepared to go into any length on the subject.

"I am only going off the news," Quinn said. "It was a surprise for everybody. I really don't have a comment on this because I don't know anything about it. It is a league issue and that is where it is going to lie. It would not be appropriate for me to say anything."

Quinn, who will coach Team Canada at the Olympics, also refused to say whether he thought the issue would become a black cloud for Canada at the Olympics, given Gretzky's involvement with the team.

One matter the players were clear on was the NHL's warnings and guidance regarding gambling.

"We do have meetings about the rules and all that stuff, and to stay away from gambling in general," captain Mats Sundin said. "I don't think there is an issue of guys knowing what is legal and what is not. It is pretty clear."

Said Belak: "(The NHL) does not want you to get involved with the wrong kind of people (such as) bookies. I don't think our sport is a huge money draw as far as gambling goes."

No matter the outcome, the story has brought attention to the NHL, especially in the U.S.

"I don't know if it brings a black eye, but any bad press is not going to be good," Belak said. "Maybe this is what we need in the U.S., the publicity. I don't know if it's great publicity."


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