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COC boss says Gretzky story won’t distract Canadian team

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Torino, Italy — The buzz surrounding Wayne Gretzky and his reported knowledge of a gambling ring will not be a distraction to Canada's high-powered hockey team, Canadian Olympic Committee president Michael Chambers vowed Saturday.

The Great One is the executive director of Canada's hockey team, which many expect to win gold.

"Athletes live in the village, they're transported to venues and they're in an envelope of sorts during the games," Chambers said. "I'm sure when Gretzky arrives a lot of the media will be interested in talking to him, but I don't think that's going to distract our athletes in any way.

"Frankly, I believe what Canada does at the games will override any momentum this story will have over the next several days."

Gretzky is expected to arrive in Torino on Tuesday — a week after New Jersey authorities said they were investigating Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet for allegedly financing a sports gambling ring.

In New Jersey, the former federal prosecutor hired to do an internal investigation of NHL players' purported involvement in the betting ring has told league commissioner Gary Bettman he's found no indication of bets on hockey games.

"The one assurance I've been able to give him is that we have seen absolutely no evidence and we have absolutely no other information to suggest there was betting on hockey or that the integrity of the game was compromised in any way," Robert Cleary said in a telephone interview Saturday.

Cleary's findings match those of the New Jersey authorities investigating the gambling ring. In announcing the investigation Tuesday, state police Col. Rick Fuentes said wagers exceeded $1.7 million, primarily on professional and college sports, mostly football and basketball.

No NHL player has been named or charged in the probe. Tocchet, a New Jersey state trooper and a South New Jersey man all face charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy and are scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 21.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, law-enforcement officials have told the AP that Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, placed bets through the ring and that he was recorded on a recent wiretap discussing how Jones could avoid being implicated.

Gretzky, part-owner of the Coyotes, is in his first season coaching the team.

"Even if you accept the reports and the various suggestions in them involving Wayne Gretzky, nothing suggests he was involved in an illegal act," Chambers said in a telephone interview as he watched the moguls competition at Sauze d'Oulx. "So, we're not engaged in the situation other than following the reports and there's no reason at all for him to not be involved in the games."

The AP has reported Gretzky's wife allegedly bet at least $100,000 on football games; there is no evidence the retired hockey great placed any bets.<

"My love for her is deeper than anything," Gretzky has said. "The reality is, I'm not involved, I wasn't involved and I'm not going to be involved."

Associated Press Writer Angela Delli Santi in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.