Getting messier - and it's not the Moose we're talking about
What a day to start a blog.
They've often called Wayne Gretzky the Teflon hockey player for the way in which even the misdeeds of those around him have never sullied his dazzling image.
Start with Peter Pocklington and move on to Bruce McNall and maybe throw in a little Marty McSorley, and you get the picture.
Well, this could be The Great One's toughest test yet.
According to this morning's edition of the Newark Star-Ledger, police have Gretzky on wiretap surveillance discussing the gambling organization of his friend and assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, Rick Tocchet.
That's certainly different than what Gretzky had to say when the news first broke two days ago, although Jersey police are also saying No. 99 didn't place any bets himself.
That may have been more to the tastes of his glamorous actress wife, Janet, who may make her own public statements on the matter today. Speculation is that she made have bet as much as a half-million through Tocchet.
The story quotes sources suggesting Mrs. Gretzky may have wagered $75,000 on last week's Super Bowl, including - gotta love this one - $5,000 on which team won the coin toss.
Now, I'm no betting guy, never have been, and quite honestly a lot of this stuff goes right over my head. Even odds - 15-1, 6-5, 7-2 - leave me completely befuddled, although most disinterested.
But I did watch that Super Bowl, and I have to say that a game filled with that many odd or downright questionable officiating calls and even plays by individual players certainly could leave a bettor, particularly a losing one, wondering about much that unfolded.
And, based on the strangeness of some of the plays, it would be the last competition I'd want to wager big-money on.
But maybe that's just me.
Based on today's story - and we're just getting started, folks - Mrs. Gretzky's very busy husband was certainly well aware of his wife's bets.
"The reality is, I'm not involved, I wasn't involved and I'm not going to be involved," Gretzky said when first asked about the allegations about Tocchet.
Perhaps Gretzky didn't know about the links to a New Jersey state trooper who has been charged in connection with "Operation Slap Shot," but wouldn't you think he might have said to Tocchet, "You know, I'm not so sure this is a good thing for you to be doing."
Or how about, "Please don't do this on company time." But instead of that, Gretzky seemed content to let his assistant coach not only continue this off-ice activities, but also keep coaching, even after police promised to lay charges.
For selfish Canadians hoping to see their men's hockey team capture gold in Turin over the next few weeks, could this come at a lousier time?
There is talk in at least one report that Janet Gretzky will make a statement today, and that will be interesting.
But Canadians and the hockey world will want to hear from Gretzky, and now's the time to come absolutely clean. A simple "no comment" could be devastating.
It sounds like he has nothing to hide. But his initial comments sounded more like an evasion that an honest response, perhaps reasonably so given the shock of the story hitting the headlines, but two days later he has to know that this is the time to lay out for everyone all he knows, even if it implicates his friend.
The Coyotes are at home tonight against Dallas, and while Tocchet has been forbidden to be anywhere near the Desert Dogs as part of his laughable "leave of absence" agreement with Gary Bettman, Gretzky will be there and can't simply let this story swirl all day without saying something clear on the issue.
One suspects he'll be hearing from the Unabomber Hunter himself, new NHL investigator Bob Cleary, or maybe already has.
This doesn't have to be a story that drags Gretzky into this mess - unless he's a lot more involved than we think - but it could be if he chooses to stay mum and not say all he knows.
That doesn't mean he has to disavow or abandon Tocchet. He never abandoned McNall, and that's a laudable trait in a man, to stick by friends.
But there are a lot bigger issues here, including the integrity of the Coyotes and the integrity of the league.
The clear question that follows all of this, at least for Canadians, is should Gretzky go to Turin? You can bet European journalists are not going to be shy about raising the gambling story, just as they're going to be very, very interested in going over the entire Steve Moore incident again with Canadian Olympic winger Todd Bertuzzi.
With Dick Pound again raising questions about the NHL's drug policy on the eve of the Olympics, there are going to be any number of very tricky stories following the Canadian team as it seeks to defend the gold won in Salt Lake City.
You can bet if things don't go well, the gambling story and Bertuzzi story and Pound allegations will all be brought up again and again and again.
Then again, Gretzky should be there to stand up and answer all the questions, shouldn't he?