Ottawa Senators center Shane Pinto has been suspended for 41 games by the NHL for activities relating to sports wagering.
“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,” Pinto said in a statement.
The suspension is retroactive to the Senators’ first game of the season. Pinto is currently without a contract as a 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. We know he is remorseful for his mistakes. The Ottawa Senators fully support the NHL’s rules on gambling,” said the Senators in a statement.
“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,” the team said.
It is unclear how Pinto violated the sports wagering policy. According to the NHL, “The League’s investigation found no evidence that Pinto made any wagers on NHL games.”
According to the Ottawa Sun, Pinto had an online gambling account in the U.S. that was flagged by an NHL integrity protection partner, which alerted the league. The Sun writes that it was “because of unusual activity.”
This marks the first gambling-related suspension in the NHL since the legalization of sports wagering via the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, which opened the door to a flood of partnerships and sponsorship agreements between the league and sportsbooks. In 2021, the Ottawa Senators became the first NHL team to put a gambling advertisement on their helmets through a deal with Bet99.
The investigation into Pinto was ongoing for a few weeks and completed Wednesday. The NHLPA was aware of the investigation, as it would be through any legal matters involving players.
The NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement states that “gambling on any NHL game is prohibited.” It’s a rule posted in every dressing room around the league. The NHL constitution, a document that details everything from club ownership rules to the powers of the commissioner, conveys similar information. Players and those working for a team or the league are allowed to bet on non-NHL events.
Commissioner Gary Bettman is empowered by the CBA to impose discipline on any player for violating an off-ice league rule or a player guilty of conduct that’s “detrimental to the welfare of the league or the game of hockey.” The CBA spells out three forms of punishment from the commissioner: fining a player, canceling the player’s contract or expelling/suspending the player “for a definite or indefinite period.”
This was set to be Pinto’s fourth NHL season, having scored 43 points in 99 games with the Senators.
Pinto would be able to sign a new contract in January 2024 since he hasn’t played enough games to be considered a Group 2 RFA. Were that the case, then he would have had to sign a contract by Dec. 1, 2023.
“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,” said the Senators.