Gretzky Flees Phoenix Amid Coyotes Bankruptcy

nhl_i_gretzky1_sw_sq_300By Dan Canavan

Last week, Wayne Gretzky resigned as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. Gretzky, a creditor in the club’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, defended his resignation, claiming that neither potential ownership group was interested in retaining him as head coach. As a minority owner, Gretzky was being paid an excessive salary and is still owed approximately $8 million from the club. Gretzky never reported to training camp, and his resignation has been rumored for weeks.  

Much like Ted Williams’ short managing career with the Washington Senators, Gretzky was never able match the success he had on the ice behind the bench. As a player, he was dazzling; as a manager he was dull. After four years in the desert, Gretzky posted a 143-161-24 record, missing the playoffs all four seasons. Sure, Gretzky’s Coyotes lacked talent, suffered from a small payroll and endured a fiscally irresponsible and uninspiring ownership group. But as hockey royalty, he was not judged merely by on-ice performance. The Great One’s coaching post was more about publicity and advertisement, than it was about proven managerial talent. He was expensive and didn’t win. Add in the Rick Tocchet gambling scandal (where his wife was apparently placing illegal bets on sporting events with his best friend and supposedly without Gretzky’s knowledge), and his resignation was well overdue. By any reasonable on-ice or off-ice standards, No. 99 should have been fired years ago.

phoenix_coyotesIt is unclear at this point if Gretzky will ever recover any funds from the bankruptcy proceedings, regardless if he remained head coach. But considering the state of the franchise, Gretzky probably made his best career decision in years. He bailed. The Coyotes situation is not going to get better anytime soon. The team has a long year of empty seats, angry fans and financial uncertainty ahead. No one is expecting the Coyotes to make anything resembling a playoff run this year, and the club will likely dwell near the basement of the Western Conference for much of the season. The most interesting aspect of the Coyotes this year will occur in a courtroom, not in an arena. As a minority owner and creditor, the bankruptcy questions would have been endless for Gretzky, each post-game press conference would have been littered with inquires regarding the latest legal developments. At least his replacement, ex-Hartford Whaler Dave Tippett, doesn’t have a personal stake in the outcome of the bankruptcy.

Although no one could see the ice better than Gretzky, it doesn’t take much ingenuity to determine that the Coyotes are a losing proposition. With no upside in Phoenix, no one can blame him for moving on. Hockey fans probably haven’t scene the last of him, but the Great One likely won’t be the last Coyote to flee the desert.

Dan Canavan is an attorney in Hartford, Connecticut. He has appeared as an on-air guest with regard to the NHL and the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings on CBC Radio’s World Report. His analysis and commentary have also been published in various media outlets including The National Post,, as well as the Sports Litigation Alert , a leading sports industry publication which is circulated throughout the United States. You can also follow Dan on Twitter @DanielRCanavan. Dan can be contacted at or 860-665-3276.


  1. Hello may I reference some of the material from this post if I reference you with a link back to your site?

  2. Thank you for your insight. Your thorough presentation is appreciated. Keep up the good work.

  3. Gretzky was the best of the best in the NHL. There are still records that no one will touch. Besides you cannot fire a co-owner


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