Rick Tocchet, standing at right, talks to Coyotes captain Shane Doan in this 2005 file photo. (AP/Tom Hood)
Tocchet, who played for six NHL teams in a 22-year career, is on leave from his job as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. Such offences usually do not carry a jail sentence for first-time offenders.
"It's a huge operation and I think it exposes to people the allure of gambling, illegal gambling, in New Jersey," state Criminal Justice Director Gregory A. Paw said outside the courthouse.
The maximum sentence for the charges Tocchet pleaded guilty to are 10 years in prison and a US$50,000 fine. Paw would not say whether prosecutors will ask for jail time for Tocchet.
The 43-year-old Tocchet is the third man to plead guilty in the case, which New Jersey authorities dubbed "Operation Slapshot." The others, including state Trooper James Harney, are expected to get jail time.
Janet Jones, the wife of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, was accused of betting but was not charged in the case.
Prosecutors said in February 2006 that the ring handled $1.7 million in wagers during a 40-day stretch that began at the end of 2005 and included college football bowl games and the Super Bowl. They said there were no bets on hockey games.
Tocchet did not speak during Friday's court hearing except to answer yes or no questions. When asked by his attorney, Kevin Marino, if he ever bet on professional hockey, Tocchet said "no."
"Today's proceeding makes clear this was not an organized crime hockey ring because there was no betting of any kind on professional hockey," Marino said.
Marino said Tocchet has not spoken with the NHL about how his guilty pleas will affect his coaching career.
Coyotes president Doug Moss said he did not know enough about Tocchet's plea to comment.
"I don't have any reaction yet because I don't know anything about it. I just don't know what's happened yet," Moss said. "We wouldn't have a reaction until the league has a comment on it."
NHL spokesman Frank Brown said, "Today's development allows the league to complete its investigation of the matter. There is no timeline on when that investigation will conclude. We will not comment further."
Tocchet played in 1,144 regular-season games for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and Phoenix, scoring 440 goals and 952 points. He also appeared in 145 playoff games, with 52 goals and 112 points.
A lawyer for Gretzky and a publicist for Jones did not return messages for comment early Friday.