What led to Pinto’s 41-game suspension?
TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston joined host James Duthie to discuss what led to Shane Pinto’s 41-game suspension, why other teams are curious about the circumstances and what this does to his next contract.
Duthie: Shane Pinto’s 41-game suspension Thursday is the NHL's first gambling suspension and also matches the longest suspension in league history. Let’s start with the investigation, what led to this?
Dreger: Well, the fact that it was flagged by an NHL partner because of recent use on the Shane Pinto account. And that can come in a variety of forms including IP addresses that are attached to an account such as this. So it goes beyond being specific to how he broke the rule. The NHL did determine, of course, that Shane Pinto did not specifically bet on NHL games. But there’s reason to believe there might be another party involved who may have had access to Shane Pinto’s account. They’ve gone through the process, it was very tricky, it was an intricate investigation, and while they say he did not bet on NHL games, there was improper gambling activity leading to the 41-game suspension.
Duthie: How does this impact his signing? He remains the league’s only restricted free agent.
LeBrun: Yeah. Well, number one is that there’s no hurry to sign a contract, he’s not going to do that until January once his suspension has been served. And in the meantime, that timeline of three months is important to the Ottawa Senators who don’t have cap space and now have more time to swing a trade and create that cap space. There’s a lot of important elements in terms of the timeline. The other one is the league investigation. Because I know a lot of people look at all this and say ‘Well that’s why he’s not signed!’ No, that’s not why. Yes, the league investigation started in early summer, but the league didn’t notify the Ottawa Senators of this investigation until closer to training camp. So, these things just happened to be separate matters at that time.
Duthie: The NHL says it’s not going to say anything more about Pinto’s situation. But everybody wants to know the details. Does that include the rest of the NHL?
Johnston: Yeah. Our phones blew up collectively today with a lot of people who work for NHL teams wondering what happened here. And that’s not because everyone wants to know the titillated information. It’s because these teams know that they have players that are gambling. This is a reality that they bet on other sports, which is totally permitted under the rules in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. And I think these clubs would like to have a little bit better of an idea of what went on so they can use that to school their players on the lessons from this situation. And I don’t think they’re going to get it. Because I think what’s important here, this is a negotiated settlement that comes with confidentiality clauses. And so while we’d all like the blow-by-blow of everything that played out, I think we’re scratching at the surface in terms of all those details.
Duthie: Is it fair to say the NHL Players’ Association was involved from the very beginning of this?
Dreger: Yup, they ultimately negotiated the 41 games, recognizing that commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League could have hit Shane Pinto with a much bigger number. I mean, 41 games is pretty punitive, there’s no doubt about that. But the Players’ Association as I said recognized that this could have been far more severe. So they settle on 41 games. Shane Pinto isn’t allowed to appeal and really what they’ve done now is pushed his ability to sign a contract into the new year. So he foregoes a contract and money, but he’s unable to appeal.
Johnston: Well, an interesting part of this is that Marty Walsh – still in his early days as executive director of the NHL Players’ Association – he has seen six clubs on his annual fall tour in which the director does speak to each team. He’s got 26 more on the agenda and needless to say, I think, the message might change a little bit. I’m sure the questions he’s getting from players might change as a part of this. And there are a lot of security layers I’m not sure every player knows about when it comes to what happens on their gambling accounts. So I think you’re going to see this become a far bigger topic of conversation behind the scenes.
Duthie: What’s the level of concern about the gambling culture that now exists surrounding sports? Not just in hockey. Are there folks worried that this is just the start of problems like this?
LeBrun: Well, I think it’s an evolving conversation. I mean, think back to late August when the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the provincial watchdog for online gambling, they came out and imposed new restrictions that kick in next February for celebrities and athletes saying they can no longer be pitchmen for online sports gambling websites. So that affects, for example, people like Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, who won’t be able to continue to be pitchmen for their respective sports gambling sites. And the reason the watchdog did that is their research says that sports gambling promotion is having a negative impact on teenagers and developing bad habits. This is why we’re having this conversation, a conversation that will continue.