The trick with Rick
OK, so you are commissioner of the NHL for a day, and the matter of Rick Tocchet and his gambling involvement is on your desk. What do you do?
I always liked hearing from Morrison on Sportsnet's various hockey panels, but unfortunately on this one, we don't get his opinion.
He's right, though: This is a very difficult question, one that's going to garner a ridiculous amount of coverage either way.
To be completely honest, this wasn't something I'd followed all that intently — at least recently. The last Tocchet-related material on this blog came back in mid-August, and even then I think I was a little against the grain in playing down what he was guilty of.
Earlier tonight on the little radio bit I do out in Edmonton, host Corey Graham asked my opinion on this business: What should be done with Rick Tocchet now that all the, ahem, cards are on the table?
Not wanting to offer a non-answer, I said, "Sure, bring him back."
For one, as Morrison points out, Tocchet's already been suspended for an awful long time for someone who pleaded guilty to two third-degree charges and received a probationary sentence.
Was what Tocchet did wrong? Absolutely. But when his lawyer claims he only placed one bet, and there's no evidence to the contrary; when the real ringmaster here, New Jersey state trooper James Harney, receives a five-year prison term; when Tocchet's already been punished 21 months with a suspension without pay — when does it measure up to the ills we actually have proof the former Coyotes coach actually committed?
I think the NHL's going to keep Tocchet out a while yet, likely until next season, but at some point it's time for all concerned to move on. Tocchet deserves the right to earn a living behind an NHL bench, and given he's got Wayne Gretzky as a continued backer, that speaks volumes to me.
The climes in professional sports right now are just right for a witch hunt, however, and even those on the fringe are being stirred into the brew. The 'G' word is making people in the business do awfully funny things these days, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Gary Bettman follow suit.
Here's hoping fans — and the media — are discerning enough to see the world of a difference between this case and the Tim Donaghy debacle in the NBA.
The right thing here is to move on.
UPDATE Bettman rules that Tocchet can return in February, which is fine by me.
In handing down his ruling, Bettman said: "There are those who suggest that Mr. Tocchet should be prohibited from resuming active status in the league for an extremely long and additional period of time, perhaps forever. In my view, those who would make such a suggestion are not familiar with all the facts and are still focused on the original headlines."Precisely.