Minnesota Wild’s Thomas Vanek implicated in Gambling Scandal

Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek has been implicated in a gambling ring by a bookmaker who’s now headed to prison. Mark Ruff, one of three owners of a Rochester, NY bar, claims that Vanek paid him $230,000 on a gambling debt, which the bookie laundered to his bank account.

This is actually the second time that the hockey star’s name has come up in the news for being a client in the sports betting ring. After the bar owned by Ruff, his brother Joseph and Paul Borrelli was raided, Vanek came up during questioning. Ruff accepted a plea deal that includes nine years in prison for money laundering and running the illegal bookmaking operation.

Tying Vanek to a sports betting ring based in New York seems to make little sense, given that he plays for Minnesota. But as Sports Illustrated contends, he spent nine seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization:

Vanek’s ties to the area stem from him spending nine seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization and with the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester.

According to the report, attorney James Wolford said that the gambling debt payment was made with a New York Islanders check around the same time that Vanek played for the Islanders. Vanek spent last season with the team before signing a three-year deal with Minnesota this past offseason. The total of the debt was more than $1 million, the paper said.

An agent for Vanek denies that his client had anything to do with the betting ring. However, Wolford has since said that he’s surprised the agent would deny the connection. As of now, neither Wolford nor the US attorney have said if Vanek signed the $230k check to cover gambling losses. One potentially damning piece of evidence comes from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which claims that Vanek’s name turned up in the bookmakers’ records.

Vanek is an Austrian hockey player who was drafted fifth overall by the Sabres in 2003. After spending his first 9 years in Buffalo and a season split in New York and Montreal, the 30-year-old signed a three-year contract worth $19.5 million with the Wild. Through 10 games played this season, he has one goal and seven assists for a total of 8 points.