Ottawa Senators center Shane Pinto returned to practice this week after a 41-game suspension. This suspension, one of the longest in NHL history, was brought due to activities related to sports wagering.
”It’s been a long road for me,” said Pinto, facing the media for the first time since his suspension. He expressed his emotions about rejoining the team. “It’s awesome, it’s special,” he said. “You kind of take it for granted, being around the team and how much the boys mean to you.”
Pinto will return to the ice on Jan. 21 for the fixture against the Philadelphia Flyers and believes it won’t take long for him to get back to what he does best.
“I think my conditioning will be there, maybe some little things, like my puck touches and timing. I think it’ll take one or two games, and I’ll be hopefully back and contributing,” he said.
The New York native had an impressive first full season in 2022-23, scoring 20 goals with 15 assists, and will hope to return to that kind of form to help the Senators, who sit bottom of the Atlantic Division with a 15-23 record.
The circumstances of Pinto’s suspension sparked a broader conversation about gambling in professional hockey. The NHL’s announcement on Oct.26 cited Pinto’s suspension for “activities relating to sports wagering,” though it was clarified that there was no evidence of him betting on NHL games.
When his suspension was announced, Pinto immediately admitted guilt.
“I want to apologize to the National Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators, my teammates, the fans and [the] city of Ottawa, and most importantly, my family. I take full responsibility for my actions and look forward to getting back on the ice with my team,” he said in a statement.
The Senators supported Pinto while accepting the NHL’s decision. “Shane is a valued member of our hockey club – an engaging, intelligent young man who made poor decisions that have resulted in a suspension by the National Hockey League. We know he is remorseful for his mistakes. The Ottawa Senators fully support the NHL’s rules on gambling,” the club stated.
While Pinto declined to speak in detail about his suspension, he stated that it was unexpected.
“I don’t want to get too much into detail about it, but I definitely was caught off guard a bit.” he said “It just kind of came out of nowhere and went from there.”
Pinto took full responsibility for his actions and reflected on the lessons learned.
“Life can change in an instant,” he said, “I got to be more cautious, more mature in what I’m doing. I got to realize what position I’m in. There is always going to be a microscope on professional athletes. I took that for granted, and I got to be better about it.”
The players’s situation is indicative of the growing prevalence of gambling in sports. “You see it on the commercials now; it’s pretty evident. But that’s no excuse,” Pinto acknowledged.
The center also spoke about turning his experience into a learning opportunity for others, sharing his insights with fellow athletes.
“I talked to a lot of players. It’s good that I can help,” he said.