Great One resigns as Coyotes head coach

Wayne Gretzky has had enough of the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes.

The Great One stepped down as head coach and director of hockey operations of the club Thursday afternoon.

He has been in contract limbo since the Coyotes bankruptcy battle began earlier this summer and decided to stay away from training camp so the team could focus on getting ready for the season.

“We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected,” Gretzky said in a statement.

The Hall of Famer felt it would be in club’s best interest if he made the decision now.

“Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don’t into their future plans, I approached general manager Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach,” he said.

While Gretzky stepped down as head coach, he can’t completely put the Phoenix situation behind him.

As a minority owner of the club and an unsecured creditor, Gretzky claims he is still owed $22.5 million US. If Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie’s bid is accepted, Gretzky will receive his money. However, should Arizona bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum award the franchise to the the NHL, he would have to split $14 million with majority owner Jerry Moyes.

Gretzky’s $8 million annual deal, for coaching and personal services, became public after documents were filed in court. It was also revealed in court that Gretzky was a part of the Ice Edge Holdings group. In that particular bid, he agreed to have his salary reduced to $2 million per season.

A spokesperson for Balsillie told reporters they would not comment on personnel decisions until the bankruptcy proceedings were complete.

Hockey Night In Canada broadcaster Don Cherry was disappointed by the decision, but hopes Gretzky remains in the game.

“I don’t understand it, but he should have been there on the ice with his players,” Cherry said.

Jerome Iginla, captain of the Calgary Flames, also wants to see him get another position within the game.

“He’s definitely great to have as part of our game, the best player and ambassador that we’ve had in the NHL,” Iginla said about the all-time leading scorer. “He’s a very knowledgeable guy. Hopefully he gets back in the game.”

While Gretzky may have thought he isn’t in the Coyotes plans as head coach, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would like to see the Brantford, Ont. native remain with the club in some capacity.

“As always, Wayne placed the welfare of the team ahead of his own in making this extremely difficult decision,” Bettman said in a statement. “There can be no question he has played a vital role in the youth movement that has positioned the Coyotes for success in the future.”

Maloney didn’t waste anytime in hiring a successor, naming Davie Tippett as the Coyotes’ new coach a mere hours after the Gretzky’s resignation.

Tippett, who spent the last six seasons as coach of the Dallas Stars, joins a coaching staff made up of Dave King, hired earlier this week, and associate coach Ulf Samuelsson, who has been running the team’s training camp.

About this article

By: Jim Humphrey
Posted: Sep 24 2009 6:20 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports