Senators’ Pinto suspended 41 games for violating NHL gambling rules

Caroline Cameron is joined by Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Central to discuss the 41-game suspension dealt to Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto 'for activities related to sports wagering' and what comes next for the 22-year-old centreman.

The NHL suspended unsigned Ottawa Senators centre Shane Pinto 41 games on Thursday for violating league gambling rules. A brief statement did not provide much detail — except that Pinto was not accused of wagering on NHL games.

That’s critical, as a memo sent in March 2022 reminded all league and club personnel — including players — that wagering on any NHL game, even where legal, is “absolutely prohibited,” and will “constitute conduct that is dishonourable, prejudicial to, or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey” under the NHL’s Constitution.

The memo added that Commissioner Gary Bettman is authorized to “discipline individuals determined to have engaged in improper gambling activities in any or all of the following respects:” expulsion or suspension a definite or indefinite period; cancelling any contract that such individual may have; and/or by imposing a fine. “The League will act swiftly and aggressively in penalizing any League or Club personnel determined to have engaged in acts in violation of the NHL Gambling Policy.”

The NHLPA negotiated Pinto’s penalty with the NHL, and he will not appeal.

According to multiple sources, one of the major issues leading to Pinto’s penalty was along the lines of “proxy betting,” where another individual or individuals have access to a legal account in his name. Companies like FanDuel specifically ban this practice. The state of New Jersey fined DraftKings $150,000 in March 2022 for allowing large (and illegal) proxy bets.

It’s not uncommon for pro athletes to have legal accounts, which are heavily monitored by the online site they sign up with. It’s in these companies’ best interests to know if the players are in any way compromised. What could have complicated Pinto’s situation is where his account is based. He’s from New York State, and, for example, if a friend placed bets on a day the Senators were in Ottawa, it would be easily discoverable.

It’s rare for small bettors, but it’s a potential legal issue, since it’s across federal and state lines.

[brightcove videoID=6339912504112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

It also opens another concern: What if a friend places a bet on hockey using Pinto’s account? That would be a major, major problem and he’d need to prove it wasn’t him. There’s a lot we don’t know yet, but the league clearly was concerned with what it found. The NHLPA agreeing to and negotiating this kind of harsh suspension is a tell that no one liked what was discovered in the league’s investigation.

The suspension sent shockwaves throughout the NHL, with executives and players wondering what exactly occurred. Things like Fantasy Football and Masters pools are very common in dressing rooms and offices, just like for many of us in the general public. Expect a lot of education in the immediate future on what to avoid — such as allowing anyone access to your account, and recognizing that no matter how trivial the offence, it is a player’s responsibility to make sure they are not breaking any rules or laws. 

The NHL wanted to send that message, and no one missed it — that’s for sure.

[brightcove videoID=6339923158112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The exact timeline is unclear at this point, but it’s believed the investigation — which began sometime during the summer — intensified over the past few weeks. The Senators were not aware until right before training camp. All negotiations to sign him were paused as the NHL conducted a recent hearing into the matter.

What’s unclear at this point is how the Senators will handle the situation. It’s believed that one reason Pinto has not asked for a trade is that he appreciates the organization’s secrecy about the investigation. 

The suspension began with Ottawa’s first game of the season, so it doesn’t matter when Pinto agrees to a new contract. He is also able to sign after Dec. 1 and play this season, because he is not eligible for an offer sheet. 

Obviously, the enormous amount of gambling advertising emanating across the NHL led people to wonder if Pinto’s suspension is hypocritical. It’s a fair question. There are no specific penalties for gambling on non-NHL games, but section 18-A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement gives Bettman authority to impose discipline for off-ice conduct. 

While this punishment is uncommon in the NHL, the NFL has suspended eight players and one coach for gambling violations in the last 20 months. Soccer has had a few, too, with Italy’s and Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali banned 10 months on Thursday. While most of those are for betting on their sport, Tennessee Titans lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere was suspended six games for placing a legal bet at the team’s facility, which is not allowed under NFL rules.


Editor’s Note: Gambling problems aren’t only about losing money. They occur on a continuum, and can affect a person’s whole life. To learn more about developing a healthy relationship to gambling, and to find resources for support, click here.


When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.