I’ve left this NHL gambling scandal to my newly minted bloggin’ colleague Damien Cox for most of the day, but with the news cycle turning over and another round of leaks appearing, this more and more seems like something that’s not just getting messier, as Damien says. It’s whirling like a tornado.
According to the latest reports, “a source close to the investigation” has dropped some more hints this afternoon to the Associated Press on the nature of the wiretapped conversation that is part of that investigation, the one that was leaked to the Newark Star-Ledger. This all followed on leaks from police sources to the AP alleging that Gretzky’s wife was one of the gamblers.
Leaving aside for a moment the discrepancies between what Gretzky told reporters Monday and what the leaked wiretap suggests, there's a nasty battle playing out here, the cops waging this p.r. battle, carefully dropping off crumbs as they attempt to make the charges stick and, presumably, coerce plea bargains and gather witnesses. Aside from those already charged, though, the gamblers have done nothing wrong legally. For the ins and outs of what's legal and not in New Jersey, where the charges have been laid, here's a link and an excerpt:
Q: Were the people who bet through the ring charged? Is it a crime to bet with a bookmaker?
A: No, they weren't. Strictly speaking, it is not a crime to place a bet, according to John Hagerty, spokesman for the state Division of Criminal Justice. "The act of betting is not illegal. The act of accepting a bet and making money off of a bet is considered promoting gambling and that's a crime," he said. But soliciting friends to use your bookmaker, or placing bets for others with a bookmaker, could be prosecuted, he said.
None of this matters, because at least for now this is being played out in a different kind of court. The status of Gretzky’s participation with Team Canada seems the least of his worries, and hockey's status in the U.S. isn't exactly about to take a hit because it really doesn't have any. Far more important is that this thing has the potential, if handled badly, to end up as the worst scandal in Canadian sporting history, and in terms of a fall from grace, among the worst in sports, period. I mean, Gretzky called in front of a grand jury? Unfathomable, up until today. "This is like seeing Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron thrown into the dock," says Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion.
But just remember -- neither the man nor his wife have been charged with anything, nor do they appear to be guilty of anything (except poor judgment, and if that $5,000 coin toss bet is true, a problem). If he’s smart – suddenly, that’s an open question – then he lays it all out, as soon as possible.
Oh, and in other news, the Olympics start Friday. Remember them?