February 10, 2006
What a joke!Gambling ring allegations seem laughably absurd
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
TURIN, Italy -- The Olympic Games kick off today and, before he announced last night he would make the trip to Turin, it was a coin toss as to whether Wayne Gretzky would show up.
Word was Janet had $5,000 on it.
OK, that was cheap. Almost as cheap as Dick Pound taking yet another shot at the NHL's drug testing policy which, hours later, was reported to have nailed Jose Theodore.
As if Theodore's season hasn't been embarrassing enough, now the whole world knows he's also apparently worried about going bald as the masking agent found in his system stemmed from using hair restoration drug Propecia.
Back to Wayne's hairy situation.
One day after claiming he knew nothing of allegations levelled at wife Janet and pal Rick Tocchet concerning their involvement in an illegal gambling ring, unnamed sources told Associated Press yesterday Gretzky is heard on a state wire tap discussing how his wife could avoid being implicated.
In other words, somebody is fibbing.
The man Gretzky was allegedly talking to was Tocchet, the alleged ring leader of a business that allegedly took in $1.7 million in bets over six weeks from a clientele that included a half dozen current players.
No word on whether the handful of Ottawa Senators who recently bet backup goaltender Ray Emery $500 he wouldn't eat a bug made the wager through Tocchet.
Pardon me for trying to have some fun with the issue but surely I'm not the only one that finds it all so hard to believe.
A man who spent his entire life taking every step imaginable to ensure he never embarrassed himself, his family, his team, his country or his profession, is suddenly being thrust into the middle of an illegal gambling ring involving a cop, his assistant coach and some guy from Jersey?
As unthinkable as it seems, the oddest part is Gretzky is already starting to lose backers in the court of public opinion.
Try as they might, Canadians don't want to believe
the odds are stacked against The Great One and his wife.
Some suggest Janet was fronting for her hubby so he could make a reported $80,000 in bets on the Super Bowl and up to $500,000 since New Year's Eve. The cop source says $5,000 of Janet's jack went to Seattle winning the Super Bowl coin toss.
Few have simply asked why someone wouldn't just use one of a half-million Internet gambling sites to be part of the action, instead of using a bookie.
It makes no sense.
Right or wrong, a national debate has begun on whether Gretzky should show up here as head of the Canadian hockey team he assembled.
One argument suggests his presence will do nothing but distract the team while another insists he's done nothing wrong and his absence would suggest he's got something to hide.
Imagine, just six weeks ago, his biggest crime appeared to be the selection of Todd Bertuzzi.
The stakes (pun intended) are much higher now.
Although he's far from being dragged in front of a judge or grand jury to defend his wife, pal or even himself, his image as perhaps Canada's biggest icon has taken a major hit.
The authorities have dubbed it Operation Slap Shot, the NHL has hired the former prosecutor of the Unabomber case, and Canadians talk about it like it's another Ben Johnson-like scandal.
Authorities will soon interview several NHL players as part of an investigation looking into whether the alleged gambling ring has ties to the mob in Philly.
On the bright side, at least Gretzky isn't losing his hair.
Let the Games begin you say? Seems to me, they already have.