The NHL suspended Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto for 41 games on Thursday, making the 22-year-old American the first modern-day hockey player banned for sports gambling.
The league said the half-season ban was for “activities relating to sports wagering” and that its investigation found no evidence Pinto bet on NHL games. It did not release other details, including what Pinto did or how he was caught.
“I want to apologize to the National Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators, my teammates, the fans and city of Ottawa and most importantly my family,” Pinto said in a statement released by the team. “I take full responsibility for my actions and look forward to getting back on the ice with my team.”
Pinto is not appealing the suspension, part of an agreement among the league, player and NHL Players’ Association to resolve the situation. The league said it considers the matter closed, barring any new information in the case.
Coach D.J. Smith told reporters at the team’s morning skate in New York that the Senators would help Pinto and welcome him back with open arms when he’s eligible to return.
That would be the middle of this season, once Pinto signs a contract. He is currently an unsigned restricted free agent and was the last player in that category without a deal, something this suspension begins to explain.
“Shane is a valued member of our hockey club; an engaging, intelligent young man who made poor decisions that have resulted in a suspension by the National Hockey League,” the Senators said in a statement. “We know he is remorseful for his mistakes. The Ottawa Senators fully support the NHL’s rules on gambling. While saddened to learn of this issue, the entire organization remains committed to Shane and will work together to do what is necessary to help provide the support to allow him to address his issues and become a strong contributor to our community.”
Pinto is the latest professional athlete suspended since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for legalized sports wagering in 2018. At least 10 NFL players have recently been banned for gambling, most notably receiver Calvin Ridley missing the entire 2022 season for betting on games in the league. The NBA and Major League Baseball have not announced any recent gambling punishments, though the topic is a growing concern across college sports.
According to industry estimates, Americans have wagered over $220 billion on sports in the first five years since the Supreme Court decision.
The NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement says that “gambling on any NHL game is prohibited.” NHL teams can go as far as prohibiting employees from hockey operations to the business side from even joining fantasy leagues for money.
The Senators in 2021 became the first team to add a gambling-related entity as a helmet sponsor with Bet99. Their home helmets now bear the logo of Betway, an international gambling company.
Two years ago, the league investigated Evander Kane for gambling after his estranged wife claimed he bet on NHL games, including against his own team. Kane denied those allegations, and an investigation by NHL security and the firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler found no evidence Kane bet on or tried to throw any games.
Before Pinto, the last NHL players to be suspended for gambling were Billy Taylor, Don Gallinger and Babe Pratt back in the 1940s.
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