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Gretzky denies making any bets Hockey icon's wife says she never placed any wagers for him

TRENTON, N.J. -- Just days before he was to leave for the Winter Olympics, Wayne Gretzky faced embarrassing revelations in the gambling scandal that is consuming the world of hockey and its greatest living icon.

Gretzky was recorded on a wiretap talking to the alleged financier of a gambling ring -- his assistant coach -- discussing how his wife could avoid being implicated, a person with knowledge of the investigation told the Associated Press.

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. Jones has not been charged.
Before Thursday night's Coyotes game against the Dallas Stars, Gretzky told the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz.: "If I had made one bet, I would have quit the Coyotes. I would never embarrass the team or the organization. If I had made one bet, I would have quit Team Canada. I would never embarrass them.

"There's nothing for me to hide from."
His wife released a statement Thursday night through the Coyotes organization that said: "At no time did I ever place a wager on my husband's behalf, period. Other than the occasional horse race, my husband does not bet on any sports."

Elliot Mintz, a spokesman for Jones, said she may be called as a witness before a grand jury in New Jersey.

Gretzky is executive director of Canada's Olympic hockey team and is expected to arrive in Turin, Italy, on Tuesday, a day before Canada's opening game.
After Thursday's game, Gretzky did not take questions or talk about the wiretaps during a brief news conference. "I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I'm still going
to coach the Phoenix Coyotes. I've done nothing wrong. I'm going to Italy on Sunday. I'm going to be with Team Canada."

Phoenix general manager Michael Barnett also released a statement, addressing media reports that he bet on the Super Bowl through Tocchet and later met with investigators in New Jersey about the case.

"They informed me that my conduct has in no way violated either federal or state laws," he said.

Gretzky sounded weary talking to reporters after the game.

"I hope you appreciate that these three days have been horrible and I'm just too tired mentally and physically to talk any more about it," he said.

In other developments Thursday:

State investigators in New Jersey said they will interview more hockey players who were believed to have placed bets, in part to determine whether there was any gambling on hockey. So far, authorities say, they do not have evidence that there was.

Authorities said Tocchet and two New Jersey men will be arraigned Feb. 21 on charges related to the gambling operation. Tocchet, New Jersey State Police Trooper James Harney and James Ulmer will appear before Burlington County Superior Court Judge Thomas Smith Jr., in Mount Holly, N.J., a statement from the state's Division of Criminal Justice said.

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. Investigators are looking into whether anyone involved in the 5-year-old ring, which authorities say had a connection to organized crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, bet 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 a wiretap on Gretzky in Thursday's newspaper. The paper 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.

The NHL has hired Robert Cleary, a former federal prosecutor who handled the Unabomber case, to investigate.

Hockey players are prohibited from making NHL wagers, legal or otherwise. There are no rules that forbid them from placing legal bets on other sports.

With the NHL launching its own investigation into the alleged gambling ring, the National Hockey League Players' Association has been telling its members that their collective bargaining agreement gives them the right to have counsel or players union counsel present during interviews, the association said in a statement released Thursday.

"In addition, the NHLPA has recommended that players investigated in connection with criminal proceedings retain counsel so that their legal rights are fully protected," the statement reads.

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