MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. – Former NHL player Rick Tocchet pleaded guilty Friday to running a sports gambling ring, but might not have to serve any jail time.
Tocchet, who played for six NHL teams in a 22-year career, is on leave from his job as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. Such offenses usually do not carry a jail sentence for first-time offenders.
The maximum sentence for the charges Tocchet pleaded guilty to are 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Paw would not say whether prosecutors will ask for jail time for Tocchet.
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.
Janet Jones, the wife of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, was accused of betting but was not charged in the case.
Prosecutors said in February 2006 that the ring handled $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.
Marino said Tocchet has not spoken with the NHL about how his guilty pleas will affect his coaching career.
Coyotes president Doug Moss said he did not know enough about Tocchet’s plea to comment.
Tocchet played in 1,144 regular-season games for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and Phoenix, scoring 440 goals and 952 points. He also appeared in 145 playoff games, with 52 goals and 112 points.
To maintain the sport’s integrity, the NHL may be best advised to suspend Tochhet indefinitely. A team coach or official with a gambling problem may allow his illness to effect his work. Even if it doesn’t, the question will always remain.
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