Rochester bookie pleads guilty: What does it mean for Thomas Vanek?

The Minnesota Wild winger’s name has been attached to a gambling probe back in New York State, but nothing official has come out about why. With two more defendants awaiting trial, will that change?

It began in late July, when Minnesota Wild left winger Thomas Vanek made a surprising appearance at a federal government building in Rochester, N.Y., where the Austrian national had once played for the American League’s Americans. Vanek was co-operating with investigators in a gambling probe and no charges were laid against the hockey player.

But with one of the men charged in the case pleading guilty to money laundering on Thursday, Vanek’s name is back in the news.

Mark Ruff pleaded guilty to laundering what was referred to as a New York Islanders salary check for the amount of $230,000, among other things. I reached out to defense attorney James Wolford, who said he couldn’t say exactly what the “New York Islanders check” was because he hadn’t physically seen it as part of the proceedings.

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It goes without saying that the check does raise some questions, since Vanek did play for the Islanders last season, though it would obviously be unfair to assume it belonged to the left winger without actual proof.

Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, originally said his client would not be charged and hadn’t “done anything wrong.”

Though nothing came out in the guilty plea of Mark Ruff, two more trials are scheduled: one for the Rochester man’s brother, Joseph Ruff, and one for Paul Borrelli. The three allegedly operated a gambling ring, with bettors settling debts in cash at a restaurant in Rochester. Whether Vanek’s name comes up in further legal proceedings is obviously something the hockey world will keep an eye on.