So, it's been a year since Rick Tocchet was implicated in the now-famous Operation Slap Shot betting scandal. "Implicated" is the operative word because, a year later, Tocchet still has not been formally charged but rather just put on notice.
New Jersey authorities plan, at some point, to charge him with a series of crimes in connection with the alleged betting ring. Some experts have recently said it's not unusual for authorities to take this long to bring charges in a case like this, but we can't help but feel some empathy for Tocchet, who is in professional limbo and barred from the NHL until the matter is cleared up.
So far, so good. I also feel for the guy - tough player, had a pretty good playing career. Things soon go awry, however.
New Jersey officials have been curiously tight-lipped about the proceedings, especially after all the convenient leaks that took place immediately after the probe hit the headlines.
That represents a sudden lurch into cholo-logic. First of all, the media whipped the leak into a good-sized stream because Tocchet was on Wayne Gretzky's staff in Phoenix. When the Great One is possibly involved, that's news - and ESPN was all over it along with everyone else. (This is the search result for "Tocchet, gambling" - just for ESPN.com.) It's a little curious that now Burnside is concerned about the effect it had on Tocchet's coaching career. Second, how is it curious that the law wants to try to keep better control of the investigation in light of what the leaks have caused?
The longer the wait for any formal action against Tocchet, the more this looks like an issue of rush to judgment and the greater the odor of law enforcement and state officials looking to make a name for themselves without having the goods.
Right - a rush to judgement that takes a full year. Brilliant.
Remember that search, above? This story popped up on the second page. It opens thus: "New Jersey state police were forced to arrest their targets in an illegal gambling ring allegedly run by Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet a day earlier than planned after an FBI agent inadvertently let NHL officials know about the investigation..." It also contains this beefy nugget: "...a wiretap on Tocchet's phone recorded a conversation between Tocchet and a league official. The league official reportedly discussed the investigation with Tocchet and told the coach his phone calls had been monitored. The conversation took place before news of the gambling ring was reported in the media." [emphases are mine - NF]
So - all this sniping about the New Jersey State Police and the AG? How about saving some of it for the people who essentially blew their cover, before the media even knew about it?
In the end, the real story may be the issue of justice for Tocchet.
Au contraire. In the end, Tocchet may escape jail time entirely because of the leak (caused by the FBI and the NHL itself, remember.) There had to be a reason why somebody decided to tell Tocchet about this... something perhaps along the lines of, "Dude, ixnay on the ookmakingbay. The edsfay are onto ouyay." He may never get "justice" in the sense that he can't work in the NHL any more; but neither will he get "justice" in the sense that he won't go to the pokey. Worst, if this comes to nothing, this little tip from the league will backfire for Tocchet. Many wouldn't believe he's done nothing wrong, because of the doubt caused by the official's actions. Hard to see how that could be the state police's fault.