- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

In case Wayne Gretzky or his wife, Janet Jones, are interested, the odds of the Canadian hockey team winning the gold medal at the Turin Winter Olympics, which begin yesterday, are 7-1. Sweden is the favorite at 6-1, and the U.S. squad is a distant 14-1, according to one Web site.

The odds on the Great One showing any interest in that, however, are long at this point. According to reports, his assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, Rick Tocchet, was accused of money laundering and running an illegal betting operation.

Gretzky, who initially denied any knowledge of the gambling ring, was recorded on a wiretap talking to the purported financier of a gambling ring, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. He reportedly discussed how Jones, who may have bet $500,000 with the illegal operation, could avoid being named in the probe.

Gretzky plans on being with the team tomorrow in Italy and says he has no intention of stepping down as executive director of the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team despite the controversy.

After all, the Canadians aren’t going to let a little thing like a major gambling scandal get in the way of trying to claim their heritage and win the gold medal. Think of it this way: The national Olympic committee — in a hastily called meeting — unanimously approved convicted thug Todd Bertuzzi as a member of its team.

Bertuzzi blindsided Colorado Avalanche rookie Steve Moore with a punch from behind March 8, 2004. Moore was hospitalized with three broken vertebrae and a concussion. Bertuzzi was suspended by the NHL for 17 months and received one year’s probation and 80 hours of community service after pleading guilty to criminal charges.

“Our goal is to limit the number of distractions from what is proving to be an enormously successful winter season for Canadian athletes,” Canadian Olympic Committee president Michael Chambers said in a statement shortly after Bertuzzi was approved.

How’s that working for you now, Mike?

Canada’s only hope is that because it’s the Winter Olympics, people don’t take it seriously or pay attention (except for figure skating).

The start of the Winter Games, combined with the lesson in good government provided by the D.C. Council this week in approving a lease deal for a new Washington Nationals ballpark, made me consider what might have been had the District been successful in its bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Maybe the city just reached too high. Maybe its officials should have approached it like the construction for the new ballpark — with value engineering. They should consider “value-bidding” and make another pitch for the Games — only this time the Winter Games.

After all, what do you need to hold the Winter Olympics? A couple of ice rinks and a few mountains within driving distance. We have that here. And the International Olympic Committee may look at Washington in a whole new light after this week’s ballpark voting procedures. Show a tape of Tuesday night’s meeting to IOC members and they might come away figuring they could pay for not only their kids’ college educations but for generations to come as well.

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