Just what the NHL needs in the wake of last year's lockout: A gambling scandal spreading like ripples on a quiet pond, lapping up even on the shores of Chez Gretzky.
So nobody bet on NHL games, as the league's designated spokesman Bill Daly was quick to point out: "We understand that Mr. Tocchet's conduct in no way involved betting on hockey," said Daly, pouring a teaspoon of water on the brushfire.
Tocchet: "It's not a hockey-related issue. It's a football thing." (Glad we cleared that up.).
And Wayne Gretzky, whose wife Janet has been named in the AP reports as one of the, um, I'll-take-anything-anything-but-hockey gamblers, has this to say about his assistant coach: "Everyone in the world is innocent until proven guilty."
True enough. And every bet is a winner until it's in the books.
If there's any consolation, baseball's been through this. Football and basketball, too. Now it's hockey's turn for the first time in a long time, and off these early reports it may not be as bad as the other times, perhaps -- all bets suspended until final confirmation, of course:
Babe Pratt of the Leafs got nine games in 1946 for betting on NHL games. He didn't bet against his own team, though, and the sentence that isn't mentioned in his Hall of Fame bio.
And Conn Smythe, who traded away Pratt after the short suspension, knew a bit about gambling. According to one oft-told yarn, he won $20,000 on a couple of hockey games in the mid 1920s and used the money to buy the Toronto St. Pats, who he renamed -- the Leafs. Later, he parlayed winnings on a horse bet to buy King Clancy, and the Leafs are on their way.
Imagine how different history would have been if Smythe had have lost those bets. I mean, this guy might well be selling shoes today.