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Gambling Scandal That Rocked NHL Began In Detroit



Boston Bruins players Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor were banned from the NHL in 1948 for betting against their team with a Detroit mobster.

It’s still too early in the process to say for sure what will come from allegations that San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane was betting on games involving his own team.

It all may all fade away quietly, like the 2006 allegations against Rick Tocchet that culminated in Tocchet pleading guilty to promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling. He served no jail time and no evidence was ever produced that he’d bet or taken bets on the NHL.

On the other hand, it could explode in a full-blown scandal like the one that rocked the league in 1948, leading to the life suspension of two prominent players.

In was in late February of 1948 when a blockbuster story broke in Detroit. James Tamer, a Detroit gangster and known bookmaker had been caught on wiretap taking illegal bets on NHL games from NHL players.

At that day’s practice, Red Wings GM Jack Adams called every player into his office individually and grilled each one, demanding to know if any of them had be on games. When the players took the ice, there was a definite buzz amongst the team.

Taylor Suspected Quickly

“Guys were saying, ‘Betcha Billy’s involved,'”former Red Wings forward Bep Guidolin recalled to the Boston Globe in 1999. They were referring to Billy Taylor. He was a Wings forward who’d led the NHL in assists during the 1946-47 season.

Taylor’s Detroit tenure also saw him becoming the first NHLer to record seven assists in a game, still a league record. Surprisingly, a trade sending him to Boston for Guidolin took place just prior to the 1947-48 season.

Taylor was known among NHLers a big-time gambler. He bet the horses, ran a pool hall in his hometown of Oshawa, Ont. and knew bookies.

Guidolin as quietly thinking about one of his old Bruins teammates, forward Don Gallinger and fearing the worst. “He liked to bet,” Guidolin said of Gallinger.

Guidolin had good cause for worry. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Gallinger bet $1,500 with Tamer on the Bruins to lose a February 15 game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Taylor wagered $500 on the same outcome.

Betting Against The Bruins

It turned out that Gallinger and Taylor were as good at fixing games as they were at picking winners. Chicago beat the Bruins 4-2.

Afterward, Gallinger, ever the gambler, thought little about it, other than that he’d made a bad bet. The worst bet of his life, as it would turn out.

The questioning of both players took place. Gallinger denied everything to Bruins management and to his teammates.

“The one thing that always crossed my mind was the only person who could involve me was Billy Taylor,” Gallinger explained to the Boston Globe in that same 1999 interview. “And I said to myself, ‘Billy Taylor would never do that; he’d be double-barreling himself. He’d be only putting himself in deeper.'”

The NHL continued its investigation. Shortly before the allegations came to light, Boston had traded Taylor to the New York Rangers. Bruins legend Dit Clapper traveled to Detroit to see if he could recognize the voices on the wiretap.

Inside the game, speculation mounted among hockey people that Taylor and Gallinger were the guilty parties.

Barred For Life

NHL President Clarence Campbell journied to New York and then Boston and questioned both men for hours. The finish of his meeting with Gallinger, saw Campbell informing the Bruins player that his indefinite suspension from the NHL would be forthcoming.

On March 4, 1948, Gallinger scored a goal as the Bruins lost 4-2 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs. On March 9, announcement came from Campbell of Taylor’s basnhishment from the NHL for life and that Gallinger’s indefinite suspension.

To his teammates, Gallinger had committed the ultimate sin. “I felt betrayed and angry, due to the fact we were giving every ounce of blood we have, every ounce of sweat, trying to win a hockey game,” Milt Schmidt, Bruins captain at the time, expained. “And two of your teammates are betting against you.”

According to then-Bruins GM Art Ross, an admission of guilt and an apology would’ve gained Galliner reinstatment following a one-year suspension.

“That son of a gun would never do it,” Ross said. “What a sin it was when all he had to do was say he was sorry.”

On August of 1970, Campbell lifted the suspensions on both players. Taylor came back to scouting but time never saw Gallinger returning to the game. Taylor died in 1990. Gallinger died in 2000.