First NHL sports betting suspension has more questions than answers

Ottawa Senators puck
Image: Shutterstock / Kev Gregory

Five years into the repeal of PASPA, the NHL has suspended its first player for activities related to sports betting.

The league announced today that it will be suspending restricted free agent Shane Pinto for 41 games, which is equivalent to half of an NHL season.

Here is the entirety of the league’s statement regarding Pinto:

“The National Hockey League announced today that it has suspended NHL Player Shane Pinto for 41 games for activities relating to sports wagering.

The League’s investigation found no evidence that Pinto made any wagers on NHL games.

The NHL considers this matter closed, absent the emergence of new information, and will have no further comment.”

Pinto offered his own statement after the news broke:

“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. I take full responsibility for my actions and look forward to getting back on the ice with my team.”

NHL policy allows players to wager on other sports but not on NHL events.

After being drafted into the NHL in 2019, Pinto made his debut with the Ottawa Senators in 2020 and played with the team for the past three seasons. He is currently a restricted free agent. Pinto missed the 2023 training camp with the Senators as he continued to negotiate his contract with the team.

The Ottawa Senators offered the following statement:

“We were made aware of the National Hockey League investigation into this matter and additional information was made available to the club upon the completion of the league’s investigation yesterday.

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.

When the time is right and with the league’s blessing, we will welcome him back to the organization and embrace him as one of our own.”

Given that Pinto has not bet on the NHL, questions arise about exactly how he has violated the league’s gambling policy.

In the NFL for example, players who violated the league’s gambling policy but did not bet on the NFL were suspended four games. Moreover, the NFL recently revised that number down to two. With a 17-game regular season, that is only 11.7% of the season. Forty-one games amount to half of the regular season in the NHL.

The severity of the suspension suggests a serious violation but it appears the NHL will not offer additional insight on what transpired.