The NHL suspended Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto for 41 games on Thursday, making the 22-year-old American the first modern-day 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.
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“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.”
The NHL Players’ Association did not immediately respond to a message asking if the union would appeal the suspension.
The league said it considers the matter closed and would have no further comment. Coach DJ 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.
“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.”
Pinto is the latest professional athlete suspended since the US supreme court cleared the way for legalized sports wagering in 2018. Ten NFL players have 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.