Friday, February 10, 2006

Gretzky and the Sopranos (?)

"The writers for the Sopranos are probably taking notes about this. It’ll probably show up as an episode of the Sopranos next year." -- George Anastasia, veteran organized crime reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the Tocchet/Gretzky gambling investigation

Now it appears that Wayne Gretzky, hockey's Great One, at the least knew about his friend (and assistant coach in Phoenix) Rick Tocchet's gambling involvements.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting today -- based on multiple unnamed sources -- that there's a wiretap tape somewhere with Gretzky and Tocchet discussing keeping Gretzky's wife out of the investigation into gambling that led to Tocchet and two New Jersey men being charged this week. Other news sources had the information from only one source.
In an audio on the Inky's Web site (available here in RealPlayer or WMP), Anastasia laid out three possible connections to the Philadelphia crime family:
1. Some wiseguys placed bets with the operation.
2. The operation "laid off" bets with a family-run betting operation. (Laying off bets is common practice if an operation gets too much action on one side of the bet. For example, if too much action is on one team, say the Steelers in the Super Bowl, the operation will "lay off" some of its action to another bookmaker to avoid taking a financial beating.)
3. The Philadelphia family muscled in on the action.
In the audio feed, Anastasia said that it's possible that the family did muscle in, demanding some cut of the action as tribute, but he also said that it's not as likely as it would have been a decade ago. The Philly family isn't anywhere near what it used to be, thanks to a series of wars within the family and years of battering by federal and local prosecutors.
Anastasia also said that there's a lot of what he called "peripheral" information leaking out about this case... I got the feeling that the leaking was more than he was used to seeing (and, remember, well-timed leaks accompany nearly all organized-crime prosecutions, so Anastasia is in a position to know about that).
Still, the bottom line looks less than great for the Great One.
Stay tuned.