The NHL announced Thursday that Ottawa Senators RFA Shane Pinto would be suspended 41 games for “activities relating to sports wagering” while also noting that the league found no evidence that Pinto wagered on NHL games.
With the rise and legalization of online sports betting the NHL needs to do everything to make sure there are no questions whatsoever about the integrity of the game and anyone who puts that into question should be given a harsh suspension in many cases even longer than 41 games.
But what did Pinto actually do that put the integrity of the game in question? The league has decided not to make this public. If he was not betting on NHL games what could he have done that warranted a 41 game suspension?
He could have been betting on who was going to win an award or making a futures bet but if this was the case why would the league not simply say he’s being suspended for sports wagering and not “activities relating to sports wagering”. Even if he was wagering on a futures bet if it did not involve him or a teammate it should still warrant a suspension but not 41 games.
He could have been betting on another league but that would also not warrant a half-season suspension.
It’s also worth noting that the Senators and the NHL have multiple sponsorship partnerships with sports betting sites. The NHL clearly supports the sports betting industry and if the NHL is allowed to have such close ties to this industry is it reasonable to ban players from making any type of wager?
You could also ask why players such as Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid have been allowed to appear in sports betting ads during NHL games. Wouldn’t appearing in a sports betting ad count as an activity relating to sports wagering?
It shouldn’t matter that Pinto is being allowed to serve this suspension while he is still an RFA. It also shouldn’t matter that this helps the Senators as it gives them more time to free cap space before signing him because this suspension is setting an important precedent in the NHL. There are many possible scenarios where suspensions as harsh as this one are warranted but not all violations should be treated the same and the NHL needs to be more transparent and clear about what the rules are.