Pat Hickey: Delving into the mind-boggling hypocrisy of the NHL

A league that has completely embraced sports betting has no business suspending a player for half a season for wagering on other leagues.

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The NHL should be rebranded as the National Hypocrisy League.

The league announced on Thursday that 22-year Shane Pinto had been suspended 41 games for “activities relating to sports wagering” and that its investigation found no evidence Pinto bet on NHL games. We can also assume he wasn’t involved in fixing a game, because he is currently without a contract and not playing. He and the Senators have reached an impasse in negotiations, mostly because of Ottawa’s tight salary-cap situation.

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The NHL divulged no details on the extent of Pinto’s transgression, but given the current relationship between the league and the gambling industry, the punishment appears to be an overreach.

The NHL, its member teams and its broadcast partners accept millions of dollars from online betting sites to encourage the public to bet on games, but won’t allow a player to wager on other sports?

Until the federal government cracked down, the league allowed current players Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid to appear in TV commercials that encouraged betting.

For years, the major sports leagues in North America were wary of any involvement with gambling, but as more jurisdictions have legalized gambling, they have been quick to cash in. The American Gaming Association projects that the major sports leagues bring in US$4.2 billion a year, directly and indirectly, through various gambling partnerships. That figure includes the fees sports books pay for league data and the money spent to advertise on broadcasts.

The ads are a source of aggravation for most viewers, but it’s a minor consequence when weighed against the social cost of gambling, including the hundreds of gamblers who die by suicide each year.

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Speaking about hypocrisy and the NHL, the league righted a wrong this week when it rescinded its ban on the use of multicoloured Pride Tape. The league’s hand was forced when Arizona defenceman Travis Dermott played in a game Saturday with Pride Tape on his stick shaft.

In a terse two-sentence statement, the league, whose rules allow players to use any colour tape, was rescinding the controversial ban after “consultation with the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition.” The latter group was formed earlier this year as a joint initiative of the NHL and the NHLPA and is co-chaired by former players P.K. Subban and Anson Carter.


Quebec still lagging in development: There was disappointing news this week for François Legault.

Quebec’s self-proclaimed No. 1 hockey fan is on a crusade to boost the number of Quebecers in the National Hockey League. Last year, he went as far as spending taxpayers’ money to convene a blue-chip panel to come up with suggestions to reach that goal.

The latest communiqué from the NHL Central Scouting Bureau suggests that Quebec has a long way to go.

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Central Scouting released its list of players to watch in the 2024 draft and Maxim Massé, a right-winger from Chicoutimi, was the only QMJHL player awarded an A rating as a prospective first-round draft choice.

There was one other player from Quebec with an A rating, but he has chosen to develop his skills in the United States. Sacha Boisvert was 14 when he left Trois-Rivières to play prep school hockey at Mount St. Charles — former Canadien Mathieu Schneider’s alma mater — in Rhode Island. He’s in his second year with the Musgegon Lumberjacks in the USHL and will play at the University of North Dakota next fall.

Two other QMJHL players — Baie-Comeau centre Raoul Boilard and Cape Breton defenceman Tomas Lavoie — are projected to go in the second or third round.

Overall, it’s likely to be another disappointing draft for the QMJHL. Nine players from the Q were selected in this year’s draft, but only four of them were from Quebec.

The failure to produce players at the minor level is reflected in Quebec’s representation in the NHL. Currently, there are 39 players from Quebec on NHL rosters.

Ontario has almost twice the population of Quebec but has more than three times as many NHL players with 134. Alberta, with half the population, has 35 NHL players and B.C. with three-quarters the population has 36. Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia all produce more NHL players per capita than Quebec.

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