While most sports have their fair share of scandals, the NHL has managed to avoid most of those for a large part of their history (at least when compared to other major sports). However, that all changed in the mid-2000s with Operation Slapshot. This was the code name given to an undercover police operation against a nationwide ambling ring, that was centered around many involved with the NHL. Here I will go over the scandal itself, its aftermath and more.
This illegal sports gambling ring had allegedly begun in 2001 and went on until it was brought down in 2006. The way it was discovered was via an anonymous tip, which led to a four month undercover investigation that eventually brought it down. Over the course of the entire investigation over a thousand different wagers (with totals involved being close to 2 Million dollars) were tied to the ring. However it wasn’t the gambling ring itself that made all the headlines in the sports world, it was because of who was involved in the ring. Though the gambling ring was believed to be spearheaded by Rick Tocchet (an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes), the ring including huge names such as Jeremy Roenick, other former/current NHL players, Janet Jones (the wife of Wayne Gretzky) and even “The Great One” himself.
As you could imagine, this was massive for the sport as it’s consensus best player of all time was under investigation for his role in a gambling ring, in which the gambling ring actually had ties to the Bruno-Scarfo crime family, based out of the northeast with its base of operation being in Philadelphia. While none of these players bet on hockey, they were still gambling illegally through the gambling ring (which was laundering money), which is obviously a huge no-no.
While those famous names were implicated, it was revealed that Tocchet was the alleged 50-50 partner in the betting ring with a man named James Harney, who just so happened to be a state trooper. Both of these men who were at the head of the ring both plead guilty and admitted they were the ringleaders of the gambling ring. Tocchet managed to get only probation for two years and Harney didn’t get off so lucky as he was sentenced to six years in prison.
While this may not have been as big a scandal as some of the others in sports, it is rare where an all-time great like Wayne Gretzky finds himself in the center of a scandal. This also could not have come at a worse time for the NHL as it took place around the time the NHL was going through its lockout, and thus were trying to maintain a good image and bring back fans. While this isn’t talked about too much anymore, it was major news when the scandal was breaking and you couldn’t turn on a sport channel without hearing about it.