In a historic decision, the National Hockey League (NHL) has suspended Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto for 41 games. This move makes the 22-year-old American athlete the first modern-day hockey player to be banned from the league due to involvement in sports gambling.
The NHL disclosed that the half-season suspension was the result of “activities relating to sports wagering.” However, the league clarified that its investigation found no evidence of Pinto betting on NHL games. Further details regarding the nature of Pinto’s actions and how he came to the league’s attention were not provided.
In response to the suspension, Shane Pinto issued a statement through the Ottawa Senators: “I want to apologize to the National Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators, my teammates, the fans and the city of Ottawa, and most importantly, my family. I take full responsibility for my actions and look forward to getting back on the ice with my team.”
It is notable that Shane Pinto has chosen not to appeal the suspension, which is part of an agreement reached between the NHL, the player, and the NHL Players’ Association to resolve the situation. The league has indicated that it considers the matter closed unless new information comes to light.
During a press conference, Coach D.J. Smith confirmed the Ottawa Senators’ support for Pinto and stated their intention to welcome him back when he becomes eligible to return, which would be in the middle of this season. Pinto, currently an unsigned restricted free agent, was the last player in this category without a contract, and this suspension provides context for that situation.
The Ottawa Senators also expressed their support for Pinto in a statement: “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. 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.”
Shane Pinto’s suspension is the latest in a series of professional athletes who have faced disciplinary actions since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize sports wagering in 2018. Notably, several NFL players, including receiver Calvin Ridley, have received suspensions for gambling, with Ridley missing the entire 2022 season for betting on NFL games. While the NBA and Major League Baseball have not announced any recent gambling-related punishments, the issue remains a growing concern in college sports.
The NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement strictly prohibits “gambling on any NHL game.” The league’s regulations even extend to preventing NHL team employees, from hockey operations to the business side, from participating in fantasy leagues for monetary gain.
Of note, in 2021, the Ottawa Senators became the first NHL team to incorporate a gambling-related entity as a helmet sponsor, featuring the logo of Betway, an international gambling company.
Shane Pinto’s suspension marks a significant moment in the NHL’s history and serves as a reminder of the league’s steadfast commitment to maintaining the integrity of the sport in relation to sports wagering. This incident has ignited discussions about the role of gambling in professional sports and its impact on athletes’ careers and the league’s image.