Sports Outside the Beltway

Wayne Gretzky resigns as Phoenix Coyotes head Coach

The beginning of the 2009-10 NHL season is only a week away. From ESPN-

Wayne Gretzky’s tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a period marked largely by on-ice futility, ended abruptly Thursday when the “Great One” announced he would be stepping down amid the financial turmoil surrounding the team.Gretzky

The Coyotes hired former Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett hours after Gretzky announced his departure, which had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the team dragged on.

“This was a difficult decision that I’ve thought long and hard about,” Gretzky said in a statement Thursday on his Web site. “We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected.

“Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don’t fit into their future plans, I approached general manager Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach. Don has worked hard and explored many options. I think he has made an excellent choice, and so now it’s time for me to step aside.”

Gretzky, who was due to make $8.5 million this season, coached the Coyotes from 2005-2009, finishing with a 143-161-24 record, and the team missed the playoffs in all four seasons. Gretzky, 48, also owns a small piece of the franchise.

The Coyotes are in turmoil because of their uncertain ownership situation. It was also reported recently that Gretzky wasn’t being paid his coach’s salary. Those are probably two reasons, and maybe the biggest ones, for his quitting.

Pierre LeBrun writes-

For the time being, at least for the Coyotes, Gretzky’s decision Thursday relieved a muddied situation. The head coach is no longer in limbo. The head coach is expected to be Dave Tippett. That brings some stability to a situation still unsettled at the ownership level.

You may argue whether or not the Coyotes are better off without Gretzky, but the NHL (for now) has lost its greatest ambassador.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gretzky gets another shot behind a NHL bench. It probably won’t be before 2010.

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