Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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."



At 11:31 p.m., October 31, 2007, Blogger The mysterious wonder said...

I do not want him back, because although he has been gone for almost 2 years, why is it the other two people that were involved got 3 years and 5 years of jail time. Does he deserve to be rewarded for skipping out on real punishment? I think he should be banned and never return, that was disgraceful and made hockey look foolish.

At 11:52 p.m., October 31, 2007, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Have to agree that Tochett should NOT be allowed back into the game for the same reason(s) that Pete Rose is no longer allowed to set foot on a MLB field.

At 12:23 a.m., November 01, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Comparing Tocchet to Rose or Harney doesn't wash guys, sorry.

Let's have an intelligent discussion on this issue.

At 2:01 a.m., November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there evidence he bet on hockey? Or, more specifically, the Coyotes? Because if there isn't, who cares? To be prosecuting people for gambling in the 21st century is the height of hypocrisy, given that most of our governments benefit from gambling, and some of that money has, at times, either directly of indirectly, found its ways into the coffers of pro teams.

At 3:21 a.m., November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you see what Craig MacTavish has contributed after coming back from his prison sentence (vehicular manslaughter, I believe), you want to err on the side of second chances. One thing, though, if Tocchet is able to return its got to mean absolutely NO gambling, and zero tolerance; legal or illegal - so no more entries into the World Series of Poker, Rick!

At 10:59 a.m., November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tocchet does not have a right to be an assisstant coach in the NHL, that job was a priviledge and he blew it. Lucky for him he didn't go to jail as well. He hasn't shown any discretion during his ban either. What Gretzky says about his character doesn't mean a thing. He didn't even know about his own wife's involvement.

At 11:22 a.m., November 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Tocchet deserves the right to earn a living behind an NHL bench"

Tocchet doesn't have a right to employment if his employers think he's costing them money in some way. If the owners don't want hockey associated with gambling, then it makes perfect sense to distance themselves from him. Tocchet doesn't have a right to anything.

At 12:18 p.m., November 01, 2007, Blogger Mike said...

I understand the fact that Tocchet likes gambling may set many teams' teeth on edge. And they don't have to hire him. But he shouldn't be banned by the league. The appearance of impropriety may keep you from getting a job, but only actual impropriety should lock you out of the job market.

At 12:56 p.m., November 01, 2007, Anonymous chelischalkoutlines said...

Is it just me, or is anyone else concerned about his lack of good judgement? Here's a guy under the microscope who decides to enter the largest, "high profile" poker tournament with seemingly little concern. He most likely has some demons to deal with first, no different than alcohol or drug additions.

At 12:58 p.m., November 01, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think bad judgement is what he's mostly guilty of, you're absolutely right.

That said, I'm sure he'll be well aware there won't be any leeway should he return behind the bench.

At 1:52 p.m., November 01, 2007, Blogger Jonathan said...

"Tocchet does not have a right to be an assisstant coach in the NHL, that job was a priviledge and he blew it."

It seems to me that a job in the NHL is still that - a job, not a privilege. As for whether or not he deserves the job, if the Phoenix Coyotes want him, shouldn't that be their call? The NHL absolutely has the right to suspend him, but he's almost certainly been punished enough.

At 6:35 p.m., November 01, 2007, Blogger Aaron said...

A job in the NHL is a job, but not everyone is entitled to it. There is a god given right to work, but not a god given right to work in the NHL. I agree, if he didn't bet on hockey then bad judgement is probably the only thing he is guilty of, but why does he get a pass for that? When it comes to the intregrity of the sport as a whole, why is there any leniency or wiggle room? I don't have as much of a problem with a guy playing slots or table games at a casino. Once that guy starts participating in sports books I have a bigger problem with it for a couple reasons. Like I said the integrity of the game is at stake. Secondly, why is a guy who makes his living from the NHL going anywhere near sports gambling? Whether it's drugs or gambling, people who are addicts don't make the connections between their professional and personal lives. The reason you have to have a no tolerance policy on this is because if he falls into debt to the wrong people, who's to say he's not selling information on injuries, or giving players "extra recovery time" coming back from injuries. There's just too much at stake to risk it over giving a guy a second chance. To me, the only absolutely unforgivable crimes a pro athlete can commit are either violent or involve gambling. Sorry Rick, you blew it. The best thing you can do is become a lesson for young players coming into the league, an example of what NOT to do.


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