Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tocchet to take his spot behind Coyotes bench on Thursday

“I made a mistake and it's time to move on”-- Rick Tocchet as he prepares to return to active duty in the NHL.

Wayne Gretzky has held a spot open for him behind the Coyotes bench, and Thursday night in Phoenix as the Coyotes prepare to play the Blue Jackets, Rick Tocchet will once again be offering advice, scowling at the opposition and preparing to try and get the Coyotes into a playoff spot.

If all goes according to plan, Tocchet will have been re-instated by Commissioner Gary Bettman earlier in the day, bringing to an end a most unusual and controversial chapter in his long NHL career.

Tocchet, who was in the glare of a New Jersey State Police gambling investigation in 2006, has served his time in the NHL substance abuse and behavioural program and seemingly passed all the interviews and background checks requested.

He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy and promoting gambling and was sentenced in August to two years' probation, a fortunate sentence considering the five years that could have been ordered by the courts.

At the time of his arrest, the rumours were flying of a large scale gambling ring that could possibly involve some of the big names in hockey. The story broke during Team Canada’s preparations for the 2006 Olympic Games in Italy, providing for a bit of unwanted publicity that even enveloped the Gretzky family due to their close connection with Tocchet.

The Gretzky connection to the story was something that particularly annoyed Tocchet, who felt it unfair that his friend and boss was somehow tainted by the allegations, while Janet Gretzky found her name prominently mentioned during the course of the investigation, in the end she was never charged with any crimes.

With all of that out of the way, he hopes to put the last two years behind him and focus on the future, which he hopes will see a rising young club make a move for a playoff spot over the next couple of weeks.

The Coyotes have begun to gel over the last number of weeks; it will be interesting to see how they now handle the extra exposure that the arrival of their assistant coach will receive.

He’ll want to be done with the questions and media glare as quick as possible, so that his hockey team can continue to focus on each game as they come up, not one to want to be in the spotlight, he’ll most likely gladly return to the relative anonymity of the life of an assistant coach.

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