In a story published in the May issue of Chatelaine magazine – the first in-depth interview with her since the betting scandal made headlines in February 2006 – Janet Gretzky said the ensuing media scrutiny of her relationship with her husband and their family was challenging.
“It’s unfair that Wayne and I have had a great marriage for 20 years and a nice family, and the people in the media could care less if they are trying to cause friction in your marriage, trouble in your family, and make your kids feel a certain way,” she told Chatelaine.
“That was a little hurtful because it was like, ‘Why? What have we ever done to you?”‘
She said the couple’s older children started to ask questions as media coverage of the story grew.
“We just explained to them that sometimes the media blows things out of proportion,” she told Chatelaine.
Janet Gretzky’s name surfaced in a New Jersey state police investigation dubbed “Operation Slap Shot.” She was accused of allegedly placing thousands of dollars in bets with a gambling operation authorities said was financed by Rick Tocchet, an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, the team now coached by Wayne Gretzky.
Tocchet has been suspended from his job and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The scandal rocked the NHL, erupting as Wayne Gretzky, then the executive director of the Canadian men’s hockey team, was heading to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Janet Gretzky said earlier in a statement that she had never placed any wagers on her husband’s behalf, and he has denied any involvement in the alleged gambling ring.
Gretzky, 46, put her acting career on hold to have children. Her film credits include the 1983 movie “Staying Alive,” a sequel to “Saturday Night Fever,” and “The Flamingo Kid” in 1984. She returned to the big screen earlier this year in a walk-on role in the critically acclaimed “Alpha Dog.”
The Gretzkys live in a 1,672-square-metre home in a gated community just outside of Los Angeles with four of their children: Paulina, 18, Trevor, 14, Tristan, 6, and Emma, 4.
During the NHL season, Wayne Gretzky lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., the home of the Coyotes, but heads back to California for weekend visits with his family.
“We’ve done this for a couple of years now, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to do it next year,” Janet Gretzky told Chatelaine. “This travelling back and forth is kind of getting to us.”
She admitted to the magazine that moving would cause too much upheaval for the older children, who enjoy their life in California.
Life in Los Angeles has allowed the family to keep a relatively low profile that they likely wouldn’t have had they relocated to Canada. But Janet Gretzky told Chatelaine the exposure doesn’t bother them.
“If you’re a happy family, then it’s fine. If you’re an unhappy family, you’ll find reasons like those to get upset.”
The Gretzkys’ eldest son, 16-year-old Ty, attends a Minnesota prep school known for nurturing promising young hockey players, including Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
Janet Gretzky described him as a chip off the old block.
“He’s soft-spoken and humble,” she told Chatelaine, adding with a dramatic flourish: “He’s Wayne.”