The NHL suspended Ottawa Senators forward Shane Pinto for 41 games on Thursday. This makes the 22-year-old American the first modern player to be banned for sports betting.
The league said the half-season suspension involved “activity related to sports betting” and that its investigation found no evidence that Pinto bet on NHL games.
“I would like to apologize to the National Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators, my teammates, the fans and the 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 whether 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 with open arms if he was able to return.
That would be in 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; “A dedicated, intelligent young man who made poor decisions that resulted in a suspension from the National Hockey League,” the Senators said in a statement. “We know he regrets his mistakes. The Ottawa Senators fully support the NHL gambling rules.”
Pinto is the latest professional athlete to be banned since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for legalizing sports betting in 2018. Ten NFL players have been suspended for gambling, most notably receiver Calvin Ridley, who will miss the entire 2022 season because of betting on league games. The NBA and Major League Baseball have not announced any gambling penalties recently, although the issue is a growing concern across college sports.
According to industry estimates, American have staked over $220 billion on sports in the first five years since the Supreme Court decision.
The NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement states that “gambling is prohibited at all NHL games.” NHL teams can even go so far as to ban hockey employees from joining a fantasy league for money.