Two years after learning he was being investigated for his part in a nationwide gambling ring, Coyotes associate coach Rick Tocchet's NHL ban has ended, and he's resumed his place next to longtime pal and Phoenix head coach Wayne Gretzky. Last May, Tocchet, 43, pleaded guilty to two gambling-related charges, which were related to his taking bets on football, and got two years' probation. He returns to a Coyotes club that is eyeing its first playoff spot since 2002. "This makes us better," G.M. Don Maloney says of Tocchet's return. "We were lacking just what Rick can bring to us."
The Coyotes ranked 14th on the power play, and they believe Tocchet, who scored 130 of his 440 career goals with the man advantage, will add insight to that part of their attack. While living in Phoenix during his ban he followed the team closely, anticipating his return; Gretzky—whose wife, Janet, allegedly placed bets with Tocchet (she wasn't charged)—had assured him that he'd save a place for him. "Obviously," said Tocchet last week, "I'm grateful and indebted to have that kind of friend."