Tony Soprano and the NHL

JusticeI'm not sure what to think of "Operation Slap Shot". For the unaware, "Operation Slap Shot" is the name of the New Jersey state police investigation into an illegal gambling ring with ties to organized crime allegedly run by Rick Tocchet. Tocchet is a former NHL player who is now an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Thus far, there's no evidence a single bet was placed on a hockey game. If this gambling ring didn't touch Tocchet's sport, it's far less dishonourable. It's not right and shouldn't be condoned, but the sanctity of the NHL game is left in tact and we're out of the Black Sox and Pete Rose jurisdiction. The process will run its course and we'll move on.

Having said all that, the implication of impropriety alone is enough to tarnish the purity of our game. Tocchet is Toronto-grown, a hard-nosed all-star who put in some great seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and other teams at the end of his tremendous career. Who's to say where his influence in the world of sports ends? Who's to say he can't get to an NBA ref, use his millions to persuade an NFL ref or use his connections to both the professional sports world and mob to collide two worlds which must remain mutually exclusive?

Rick Tocchet is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but the damage is already done. Newspaper headlines this morning are linking the NHL with serious gambling charges and Janet Gretzky's name is in the mix for additional sex appeal. We'll see how this plays out, but if no bets were placed on hockey games we'll file this one under "live and learn". No harm, no foul.

Bet on it.

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