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Media stories hurtful, Gretzky's wife says

The woman behind hockey legend Wayne Gretzky says the intense media coverage of her alleged involvement in a U.S. gambling ring blew things "out of proportion."

In her first in-depth interview since the coverage of the betting scandal hit the stands last year, Janet Jones tells Chatelaine magazine that the media scrutiny put a strain on the family, including the couple's five children.

"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 in a story published in the May issue.

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"That was a little hurtful because it was like, 'Why? What have we ever done to you?'"

The couple's older children started asking questions as the stories became more and more prominent in the media.

"We just explained to them that sometimes the media blows things out of proportion," the 46-year-old American told Chatelaine.

Ms. Jones's name came up in a New Jersey State Police investigation called Operation Slap Shot. She was accused of placing wagers worth six figures on the Super Bowl, and fronting bets for her husband. She is not charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

The investigators alleged that Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet financed the $2-million (U.S.) betting racket. Mr. Tocchet, who has been suspended from his job, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Mr. Tocchet has neither admitted guilt nor been indicted by a grand jury.

At the time, Mr. Gretzky was on his way to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, as the executive director of the Canadian men's hockey team.

The Gretzkys live in a 1,672-square-metre home in a gated community just outside of Los Angeles with four of their five children: Paulina, 18, Trevor, 14, Tristan, 6, and Emma, 4. Their 16-year-old son Ty attends school in Minnesota.

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During the NHL season, Mr. Gretzky lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., as head coach of the Coyotes.

The couple rarely spend more than 10 days apart, but Ms. Jones acknowledges the long-distance relationship is difficult.

"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," she told Chatelaine. "This travelling back and forth is kind of getting to us."

When Mr. Gretzky comes back on the weekends, he attends his children's important games.

Trevor plays football and baseball, and "he's my most diverse kid," Ms. Jones said, while Ty is attending a school known for nurturing promising hockey players, Shattuck-St. Mary's.

She talked about how proud she was of all her children, and that it's thanks to them that she stays so young at heart.

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"When I look at Tristan and Emma, I see Paulina, Ty and Trevor, and it vividly brings me back to the beginning years, when Wayne and I were married. It's like starting over."

The second youngest of seven siblings, Janet Marie Jones grew up in suburban St. Louis. Her father, Robert, worked in the aviation industry, and died of cancer when she was 15.

She left the suburb for the lights and sounds of show business, and snagged a regular role on the 1980s hit TV show Dance Fever. She's had acting roles in Stayin' Alive and in The Flamingo Kid.

She ran into Wayne Gretzky at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game in 1987, a few years after the two had first met. They went out for dinner with friends that night and, she told Chatelaine, "We've never been apart since."

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