Live

Watch CBSN Live

Gretzky's Wife Linked To Gambling Ring

He's one of the most famous hockey players ever, Wayne Gretzky. She's his sexy movie star wife turned mom. Now Janet Jones is back in the center of some serious drama, CBS News correspondent Sharon Alfonsi reports.

She's being tied to a sports gambling ring that could stretch from coast to coast. The Great One's wife could be in a great deal of trouble.

"First of all, my wife is my best friend," Gretzky told reporters. "My love for her is deeper than anything. The reality is, I'm not involved, I wasn't involved and I'm not going to be involved."

Police are calling it "Operation Slap Shot." They say Gretzky's wife, along with about a half-dozen NHL players, may have been among those who bet big on pro sports, but not pro hockey.

Investigators say it was all organized by a New Jersey state trooper and a former NHL hockey player, Rick Tocchet, Gretzky's close friend and top assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Tocchet is scheduled to meet in New York Wednesday with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Gretzky, revered as hockey's greatest player who is now in his first season as coach of the Coyotes, met with reporters after his team's 3-1 loss to Chicago on Tuesday night and said he had no knowledge of any gambling allegations until Tocchet called him Monday night.

"The sad thing about this whole scenario is that Rick is a wonderful person and a great guy, so I hope everything works out in his favor," Gretzky said. "It's hard because I love the guy. He's a great guy, you know. I just hope it all works out for him."

Gretzky said his wife was in California and they talked, but she did not speak about her involvement.

Gretzky said "absolutely not" when asked if she had placed bets for him.

Except for trips to Las Vegas, Gretzky said, he's no gambler.

State police Col. Rick Fuentes said an investigation into the New Jersey-based ring discovered the processing of more than 1,000 wagers, exceeding $1.7 million, on professional and college sports, mostly football and basketball.

The developments came at a sensitive time for the NHL, which is trying to win back fans after a season-long lockout and just days before many of its best players will showcase their talents at the Turin Olympics.

Tocchet was served with a criminal complaint Monday and was expected to travel to New Jersey to answer charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy, Fuentes said.

A criminal complaint informs Tocchet of authorities' intention to formally charge him and the need for him to arrange to travel to New Jersey for formal charging, or face arrest.

"It's not a hockey-related issue, it's a football thing. And at this time, I can't comment any further," Tocchet said after the Coyotes practiced Tuesday.

Tocchet acknowledged that a New Jersey state trooper arrested in connection with the gambling ring case is his friend. Tocchet said he would cooperate with the investigation, but didn't answer when asked if he'd surrender to authorities.

"We understand that Mr. Tocchet's conduct in no way involved betting on hockey," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "And, while betting on football or other sports may be the pervasive issue, it in no way justifies poor judgment or otherwise alleged inappropriate conduct."

Daly said the NHL was conducting its own internal investigation.

Authorities said Tocchet and state police Trooper James Harney were partners in the operation, with the ex-NHL forward providing the financing.

"Tocchet received illegal sports bets from wagers and funneled money back to New Jersey," Fuentes said.

Harney, 40, was arrested Monday and has been suspended from the force. The eight-year police veteran was charged in an arrest warrant with official misconduct, promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy. Another man accused of taking bets is James Ulmer, 40, who was charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy.

Both men were free after posting 10 percent of their bail. Harney had $100,000 bail; Ulmer had $50,000 bail. The two men were expected to be arraigned in state Superior Court in Burlington County within two weeks.

The gambling ring had a connection with organized crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, Fuentes said. Starting Monday night, authorities seized property from Harney and Ulmer. State police seized $27,000 in currency, "voluminous" amounts of sports betting information and bank accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Fuentes said.

View CBS News In