Taking a Pass

The NHL declines to get involved in yet another star's gambling mess
August 22, 2004

He is a square-jawed All-Star ambassador for his sport who pops up on TV to comment on pertinent NHL issues. But now Jeremy Roenick is an NHL issue, thanks to his involvement with a Florida gambling business the FBI broke up in April. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Flyers center spent more than $100,000 with National Sports Consultants, a service that sold tips to bettors. The feds say NSC took illegal kickbacks from offshore Internet casinos and falsely promised clients inside information.

Roenick said he used the touts to make legal wagers on football. He is not charged with any criminal activity, and the FBI dropped its inquiry into him this summer after finding no evidence that he bet on hockey. (Roenick, who did not return calls from SI, told the Inquirer he never discussed hockey with the tout service and said he stopped gambling "cold turkey" last January after a warning from Flyers general manager Bob Clarke.)

The NHL considers that the end of the story--the league prohibits players from gambling on hockey but not on other sports. "If the story checks out as reported, there's been no violation of NHL rules," says Bill Daly, the league's chief legal officer. But Roenick's close ties to gambling firm employees--he left tickets for one at a Flyers playoff game in Tampa in May--don't seem to have set off the alarms in the NHL that they might have elsewhere. The NFL bars wagering on team sports and is proactive in monitoring players' gambling connections--witness the recent probe into Jerome Bettis's investment in a development that included a racetrack and slot machines. (The league ultimately okayed the deal.) Major League Baseball forbids only betting on baseball, but it has been quick to admonish players it sees accumulating significant gambling debt in any manner.

The NHL took no action last year following reports that All-Star forward Jaromir Jagr had run up a $500,000 debt to an Internet gambling site. And when NHL refs complained that director of officiating Andy Van Hellemond had hit them up for loans to pay horse racing debts, Van Hellemond resigned but was retained as a consultant (SI, Aug. 16). Still, Daly says the NHL has the problem under control: "To suggest that this happens more in hockey or that our policy on gambling is more lax than other sports is wrong."

COLOR PHOTOG. ABEL/WIRE IMAGE.COM (ROENICK) BETTOR BUSINESS Roenick said he wagered over $50,000 but not on hockey. COLOR PHOTOROBERT LABERGE/GETTY IMAGES (PRESS CONFERENCE) [See also caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)