I don’t know if it’s sad or even all that puzzling. But when a coach and icon is missing in action, it kinds of sums up the whole silly mess in Glendale/Phoenix and cements even further my (our) distain for Gary Bettman and his insistance that teams in the southern US are a valid and necessary part of the NHL.
Wayne Gretzky is staying home while his Phoenix Coyotes prepare for the upcoming season because his $8 million dollar salary won’t be assumed by the NHL if it wins the bidding war over Jim Balsillie, which it may do. I think you or I might very well do the same thing as The Great One. Who’s going to work for free?
What are we to think about this Gretzky problem? Is this any way to treat such a person? But what the heck. I don’t want him to coach anyway.
For some unexplainable reason, I’ve never liked seeing shots of him standing behind the bench, changing lines, yelling at referees, looking for all the world like a real coach. I’ve never gotten used to it. It’s like seeing my old wild and crazy hippy buddy become a big shot in the government.
Gretzky was a player, which is an understatement. And a guy who ran the Olympic team because everyone respects him and he knows more about hockey than most. That’s what we remember. He never coached before, anywhere, anytime. He was always just a teammate who partied with the guys and laughed a lot, who would drink beers and have big dinners for his buddies and all the things a guy would do because he wasn’t the coach. He was just one of the boys.
Then he became a coach and frowned a lot and looked like he was miserable most of the time and the fun of the game which he’d known since that backyard rink in Brantford had gone, only to be replaced by coaching players who couldn’t possibly play as well as their coach once did.
Now what’s going to happen? If the NHL has control of the Coyotes and Gretzky’s contract fizzles out, would he continue on for lesser money, or would he shop himself around to another team? And if he does that, would he be looking for a coaching role, which I hope he doesn’t want anymore, or a loftier title, like general manager?
But being general manager means working on salaries and salary caps and bonues and percentages, and somehow, for me anyway, it doesn’t seem like a good fit for Gretzky. It’s not the kind of job Bobby Orr would’ve been good at, or the Rocket, or Gordie Howe, and, I think, Gretzky. These guys are more grassroots. Hockey-minded lawyers and more business-minded guys are better suited for the numbers game.
Wayne Gretzky should get the heck out of Phoenix. He’s hockey, Phoenix isn’t. What a waste of a hockey legend, coaching in a place where he can actually walk down most streets and no one looks sideways at him. It’s just not right.
I think he should come to Montreal. Help Jacques Martin. Take the Kostityns under his wing and show them things. Get Plekanec going again. Work with the guys. He and Gainey are old friends. He could laugh again.