Tocchet's NHL ban extended

Rick Tocchet's role in an illegal gambling ring will keep him out of the National Hockey League until at least February.

updated: November 03, 2007 13:43 IST
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New York:

Rick Tocchet's role in an illegal gambling ring will keep him out of the National Hockey League until at least February.

Tocchet, who partnered with a police officer and another man in a sports betting venture they ran for five years, pleaded guilty to promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling.

As part of a plea deal, Tocchet was sentenced by a court in the eastern state of New Jersey to two years' probation in August and avoided jail time.

He has been on an indefinite leave from his job as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes under Wayne Gretzky and had his ban extended Thursday by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman until February 7, 2008 two years after the leave began.

"Employment and participation in the National Hockey League is an honor and privilege that can not be taken for granted," Bettman said.

"Those in our game who engage in conduct detrimental to the game or its good reputation will be held strictly accountable for their decisions to engage in such conduct."

Tocchet, who could've received up to five years in prison, violated terms of the leave granted by Bettman by having contact with league personnel during the time he was away from the game, and must meet other conditions before he can be reinstated.

"We respect the commissioner's decision and are relieved that this situation is behind us," said Gretzky, the Coyotes' head coach and managing partner. "We will welcome Rick Tocchet back on February 7, 2008."

The former forward may not gamble legally or illegally and is prohibited from taking part in any activity that would reflect negatively on the NHL.

Behavioral program

Tocchet also must submit to evaluation by doctors connected with the NHL's substance abuse and behavioral program to determine if he has a compulsive gambling problem.

"I remain concerned as to whether Mr. Tocchet is adequately sensitive to the seriousness of the admitted misconduct, especially in his role as a highly visible and prominent employee in a professional sports league," Bettman said.

Tocchet, along with legal counsel and Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, met with Bettman this week with the hope that Tocchet would be reinstated immediately.

"There is no slide rule or computer-generated model that can get you to the right result on one of these cases," Bettman said at a news conference. "It's unfortunate when you ever have to deal with one."

An extensive investigation conducted by former federal prosecutor Robert Cleary, who was hired by the NHL after Tocchet was charged in February 2006, found that Tocchet was involved in the ring and shared in profits and losses, but not equally.