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Rick Tocchet Pleads Guilty to Running Gambling Ring

May 25, 2007 – 2:00 PM
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Jes Golbez

Jes Golbez %BloggerTitle%

Rick TocchetIt looks like "Operation Slapshot" has scored a goal as former NHL rabble-rouser and Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach-in-limbo Rick Tocchet pleaded guilty to running a sports gambling ring.

[Tocchet] pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. Such offences usually do not carry a jail sentence for first-time offenders.

The 43-year-old Tocchet is the third man to plead guilty in the case, which New Jersey authorities dubbed "Operation Slapshot." The others, including state Trooper James Harney, are expected to get jail time.

Prosecutors said in February 2006 that the ring handled US$1.7 million in wagers during a 40-day stretch that began at the end of 2005 and included college football bowl games and the Super Bowl. They said there were no bets on hockey games.

While there were quite a few mediots, writers and bloggers running around like Chicken Little when this story first broke, the fact is that it will not give the NHL or hockey a black eye, and won't really damage Tocchet as much as people think.

First of all, nobody was betting on hockey, so the integrity of Coyotes games (which Tocchet was a part of) or other NHL games was not at risk. As Jeremy Roenick once put it, "Nobody bets on hockey."

Secondly, who cares if some rich folks want to plunk down some dough on some football games? It's their money, and they have every right to gamble it, throw it away, burn it, or buy Carrot Top DVDs. The attitude towards gambling in North America is really quite silly and puritanical.

Most people, especially hockey fans in Canada, are smart and decent enough to know that betting on sports isn't really all that bad, nor is running a gambling ring the sign of an evil person. Sports betting is so pervasive in Europe that my European friends can't help but laugh at how silly this whole story is.

Tocchet was simply filling a market niche, and got caught by the morality police. Rick will be bruised and battered, but will come back just fine ... much like he did during his NHL career.

For more on how silly this whole thing is, check out colleague Tom Luongo's post over at Sabre Rattling.
Filed under: Sports