mafia power play
william dalyWilliam Daly: Chief Legal Counsel for the National Hockey League
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What was the NHL reaction to the Details magazine exposé?

We were upset with it. We thought it was unfair in a lot of respects. We sent a letter to the author and to the publisher, complaining where we thought it was unfair. And we actually retained an independent expert to look into some of the allegations where we didn't think we had enough information.

You said it was inaccurate, you said it was "ludicrously inaccurate."

Yes.

Do you still think that?

Yes.

Well, what did your your specialist, Mr. Moody, what did he tell you when he checked into the accuracy?

Well there were a lot of conclusions in his report. A lot are sensitive in nature. But we're satisfied with all of his conclusions . . .

Did he support your perception that this was an inaccurate--

The portions that we believe are inaccurate, yes.

Well, can you be more specific. What was inaccurate about the report?

Primarily that the League has done nothing, that it stood idly by, that it stonewalled investigations. It's just simply not true.

But in terms of the principle substance of the report -- that there were certain associations and there were certain things going on involving the hockey players. Did he stand the accuracy of that up for you?

I think he drew conclusions that couldn't definitively be drawn based on the information we were able to obtain.

But that's a long way from ludicrously inaccurate.

Well I think we were very clear in our letter to him. We thought he was ludicrously inaccurate with respect to how he characterized the NHL's position on the subject.

Why did you go to Jim Moody?

We felt, and this is our security experts here in the League, felt he was the foremost expert on Russian organized crime who was independent and who was able to perform the type of investigation we needed.

And did his performance meet your expectations?

Yes it did.

What is the NHL's estimation or perception of the vulnerability of your hockey players to extortion--your Russian hockey players?

It's certainly a problem that we're concerned about. But we think there's been isolated incidents that we clearly can establish. And there's only so much you can do about that. We try to be preventive in nature. And very proactive, very vigilant and aggressive to prevent these types of incidents from happening and we try to provide support programs to players, education to the players, and places they can look when it's happening . . .

Jim Moody told us that his perception is that virtually every Russian hockey player could be vulnerable to extortion, some kinds of pressure from back home. Do you agree with him?

I wouldn't know enough to conclude one way or the other on that.

On the basis of his report, doesn't it sort of point one way or the other?

No.

I guess I'm just concerned he may be saying one thing to me and a different thing to us. Do you think that's true?

I don't know, because I'm not privy to what he's told you.

Well he has told us that virtually every Russian hockey player in the NHL could in certain circumstances be extortable. Is that . . .

I don't have a reaction to that.

One of the concerns that come from law enforcement people including Jim Moody, including somebody in the State Department, is that the potential for criminal influence over gambling poses a potential threat for the integrity of hockey. What's your perception of that?

Well, I guess we're very confident that it hasn't. And I think you know the FBI has told us that they've looked into it and they have not only not been able to establish any effect on our games, but any attempts to affect our games. But it's something that we're very very cognizant of, that we monitor very closely both on a macro and micro basis. And we'll make sure it doesn't happen, because the League has to sell the integrity of its games, it's the most important facet of our game, and it's something we protect very dearly.

See, there's a kind of a symbiosis effect. The more popular hockey gets, the more interest the gamblers will take. The more interest the gamblers have, according to the popular formula, the more potential there is for crooked gambling. What specifically are you doing or can you do to sort of pre-empt that kind of an influence on the game?

Well, as I said, on a macro basis we certainly follow up every allegation that might be made, or every innuendo . . . We follow it up to our satisfaction to make sure that there's nothing that might taint our games. On a micro basis, I think it would be very difficult to affect the outcome of a hockey game, such that millions of dollars or a significant amount of money could be gained in a gambling venture through the activities of one or more players. And on a micro basis I think it would be very evident, both through our coaches and staff and our trained observers of the game, if that was going on, and I think we're very satisfied that it's never happened. . .

What about disreputable association. Other leagues have been very firm about this. Sports figures from other sports have had leagues come down hard on them because they've been burnt. But what is the position of the NHL in terms of associations with, say, alleged criminals or other disreputable people?

Associations to the fact and to the extent they're established would concern us, and would be something we might act on. Sure.

What about in the past, I mean you haven't really acted on these things before this. Is this a new policy?

No. It's not a new policy at all. I don't think there's anything, any established association that we've been satisfied has been established that warranted any type of proactive enforcement.

I'm reminded of a quote by [former NFL Commissioner] Pete Rozelle that, in sports, even a hint of suspicion is as serious as guilt. And we have widely documented and publicized associations for example with Slava Fetisov, and a man who's now doing time for a variety of criminal activities. Don't you consider that to have been a disreputable association?

I don't think it can be established that Mr. Fetisov personally has had that association with Mr. Ivankov. I think maybe his company may have. And, you know, he claims not to have been involved in his company.

The corporate documents say otherwise. . .

There are a lot of corporate niceties involved in setting up a corporation. A lot of people lend their name to shell organizations. Should he have been more diligent as to what the operation was doing? Maybe. But that's an error of omission, certainly. We looked into the situation. We investigated the situation. We're satisfied there was no personal association at all. . .

You have a situation where Mr. Fetisov was the president of a company that according to law enforcement documents is a front company for a man who's a criminal.

The company has long since been dissolved.

Yes. But I guess the question is, what do you do to pre-empt that situation arising again? What policy is in place? What program is in place?

Well, to educate and make people aware that we take these things very seriously. And we do.

You had another hockey player by the name of Kamensky who was associated, again through legal document, with an apparent criminal figure from Russia. What, again, what was your finding on that particular association?

Again, we couldn't establish a real association between Mr. Kamensky and the individual you're referring to. The legal document that you're referring to, or at least I think you're referring to, is something that the individual submitted to the government, not that Mr. Kamensky ever submitted to the --

Well it was even worse than that, from your point of view, the hockey team, Quebec Nordiques, submits a document to the Canadian authorities on the strength of an endorsement from a hockey player that gets the man a visa. That seems to be something that would raise a red flag in the legal offices of the NHL.

It's something that would raise a red flag in the legal offices of NHL, absolutely.

And did it?

And we looked into and found that there was no real association.

Friendship?

No real friendship.

So Mr. Kamensky lied to the team and the team lied to the government of Canada?

I'm not prepared to conclude one way or the other on what Mr. Kamensky did.

Pavel Bure is associated with a man who is considered, widely, in law enforcement circles to be a criminal. This is an ongoing relationship. It's as current as this interview. Does that not bother you?

That does bother us.

And what are you doing about it?

We're monitoring it very closely.

Are you talking to Pavel about this?

He has been talked to about this, yes.

Can you elaborate a little bit. What is it in particular that concerns you?

We're well aware of the individual's reputation. We want to make sure that the relationship that Mr. Bure has with the individual is not one that would cause our game, or the integrity of our game, to come into question.

I talked to Mr. Bure about this face to face, and he takes the position that he's loyal to his friends, and that he stands by his friends no matter who. I mean, how much influence do you think you have over him?

Well, I think if we ever got to a point where we thought his relationship was problematic, either to the image or the integrity of our sport, we would act on it.

Well what's it gonna take to raise that particular problem, that you think it's problematic?

I'm not gonna. . . that's a hypothetical question--

There's nothing hypothetical about the relationship between Pavel Bure and Anzor Kikalishvilli. And I'm wondering just what is it going to take to throw the switch for the National Hockey League?

I can't itemize the facts for you, I can only tell you that we're looking at the situations, and when we're concerned about it, we will do something about it. . . We clearly do have definitive rules . . . If we were ever to find a player, establish that a player has tried to fix a game by his performance on the ice, he's expelled from the League for that.

Oh, [once] he's in jail. Joe Namath had a restaurant that crooks used to come to, and he had to sell the restaurant or give up his football career. Right? You know, you're saying that if you catch them fixing the game you're gonna slap them, but --

We also have very, you know, the commissioner has very broad powers on conduct that is deemed prejudicial to the welfare of the game. And he has used it in the past, and won't hesitate to use it in the future in the appropriate circumstance. . .

Right, this is the rule: "To conduct himself on and off rink according to the highest standards of honesty, morality, fair play, sports -- Refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interests of the club." But some people would say that Pavel's conduct so far, is a violation of that rule.

It's the. . . that's a slippery slope. I told you it's a relationship we're concerned about and a relationship we're monitoring.

But he hasn't yet crossed the line.

Obviously not.

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