TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Wayne Gretzky was recorded on a wiretap talking to the alleged financier of a gambling ring, discussing how the hockey great’s wife could avoid being implicated, a person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press yesterday.
Gretzky, coach and part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, can be heard on wiretaps made within the past month talking about his wife with assistant coach Rick Tocchet, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Gretzky’s wife, actress Janet Jones, allegedly bet at least $100,000 on football games over the course of the investigation by state authorities, the person said.
There is no evidence that Gretzky placed any bets, according to the person.
Authorities say from Dec. 29 through Feb. 5 – the day of the Super Bowl – bettors placed a total of $1.7 million in wagers with the ring run by a New Jersey state trooper, Tocchet and a South Jersey man. All face charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy and are scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court in Mount Holly on Feb. 21, the state Attorney General’s office said yesterday.
Jones has not been charged.
Investigators say about a half-dozen current NHL players placed bets with the ring and are looking into whether anyone involved in the 5-year-old operation, which authorities say had a connection to organized crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, wagered on NHL games. Gretzky is not the main focus of the probe, the person said.
The Star-Ledger of Newark, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, first reported of a wiretap involving Gretzky in yesterday’s newspapers. The newspaper also reported that Jones bet $500,000 during the investigation, including $75,000 on the Super Bowl.
Earlier in the week, Gretzky denied any involvement in the ring.
“My love for her (Jones) is deeper than anything. The reality is, I’m not involved, I wasn’t involved and I’m not going to be involved. Am I concerned for both of them? Sure there’s concern from me. I’m more worried about them than me. I’m like you guys, I’m trying to figure it all out,” Gretzky said Tuesday.
Gretzky did not attend the Coyotes practice in Phoenix yesterday. He would not be available until after Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Stars in Phoenix and the team would not comment, said Coyotes spokesman Rich Nairn.
Lawyers involved in the case said details of the three-month investigation should not be made public.
“I have never been involved in a case where the prosecution has engaged in such inappropriate conduct in terms of making investigators available to the press, appearing on nationally syndicated television,” said Kevin Marino, a lawyer for Tocchet, who was granted an indefinite leave from the NHL Wednesday. “It’s improper, it’s unwarranted and I will not tolerate it.”
“We are not going to try this case in the press and we’re not going to let them either,” he said.