"We are thrilled that Wayne will assume the role as head coach," said Ellman. "Wayne is the greatest player to have ever played the game. He is an icon to our sport. It will be an honor for us to see him assume control of our hockey club at the bench level.
"Wayne's vast knowledge of the game, combined with his keen insight and ability to deal with players will serve him very well in this new role. Needless to say, we are very excited about our future with 'The Great One' as head coach."
Gretzky -- the greatest player in the history of hockey -- enters his first season as an NHL head coach. In addition to serving as the Coyotes' head coach, Gretzky also continues as managing partner and alternate governor for the Coyotes, a role that he has performed for the previous four seasons. Gretzky officially joined the franchise on Feb. 15, 2001, when the Ellman and Moyes ownership group completed the purchase of the Coyotes.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity and challenge," said Gretzky. "I know the game, I love the game and I can't wait to get started. I'm ready to take things on 100 percent and enjoy this new experience."
Gretzky, 43, played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League with Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, dominating the game unlike any player in history. Gretzky helped win four Stanley Cup Championships and three Canada Cup tournament titles during his illustrious playing career. He became the NHL's all-time leading goal, assist and point producer for both regular season and playoffs. Gretzky won 10 Art Ross Trophies as the NHL's leading scorer, nine Hart Trophies as the League's MVP (including eight consecutive seasons) and two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP. He earned five Lady Byng Trophies as the NHL's most gentlemanly player and made 18 consecutive All-Star Game appearances, securing three All-Star MVP Awards. Gretzky is an eight-time First All-Star Team member and seven-time Second All-Star Team member. He holds virtually every offensive record in the NHL and his tireless support of the game has contributed significantly to the popularity it enjoys today.
Gretzky's incredible success in hockey has continued past his playing career. In a managerial role with Team Canada, Gretzky served as Executive Director for Team Canada, responsible for assembling Canada's best hockey players at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and again in 2004 at the World Cup of Hockey. Under Gretzky's leadership, Team Canada persevered to win the Gold Medal for the first time in 50 years at the 2002 Olympics. Two years later, Team Canada repeated the feat by winning the 2004 World Cup of Hockey championship.
"So many of the attributes that people have recognized in great coaches over the decades, are the same skills and qualities held by Wayne Gretzky: passion, intelligence, creativity, communication, and most importantly, a deep understanding of the correlation between 'team' and winning," said Coyotes' general manager Michael Barnett. "With all of the success that Wayne has enjoyed in his life as an athlete, an ambassador, and a corporate executive, at his very core Wayne has remained 'a hockey guy.' Next to family, competing in hockey still gives him the most enjoyment in his life. We welcome him to the bench with open arms."
From 1980-81 through 1987-88 with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky averaged nearly 192 points per season over seven campaigns. Included are many record-shattering performances, such as: scoring 50 goals in his team's first 39 games in 1981-82 and setting the all-time regular season mark with 92 goals by season's end; a consecutive point-scoring streak of 51 games to start the 1983-84 season; setting an all-time single season scoring record for the playoffs with 47 points in 1984-85 and setting the all-time regular season mark with 215 points in 1985-86. The Oilers reached the Finals five times, capturing the Stanley Cup four times.
On August 9, 1988, after helping Edmonton capture a fourth Stanley Cup and winning a second Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in one of the biggest deals in sports history. Gretzky, along with teammates Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, was dealt to Los Angeles for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three future first-round draft choices and cash ($15 million). That August day would forever change the NHL landscape in the United States. Gretzky joined a Kings team that had averaged just over 10,000 fans per game in its 21-year history. With Gretzky as the star attraction, hockey became one of the hottest tickets in California. By 1991, the team would become the only franchise in Southern California to sell out every home game for an entire season. Hockey's success in a warm-weather environment paved the way for acceptance of the sport in America's Sun Belt, enabling hockey to prosper in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
After eight seasons in Los Angeles, Gretzky concluded his magnificent career by spending one season with the St. Louis Blues and three seasons with the New York Rangers. Upon his retirement, Gretzky held or shared 61 NHL records (40 for regular season, 15 for Stanley Cup playoffs and 6 for All-Star Game). Following his final game, the NHL bestowed on Gretzky the unique distinction of being the only player in the history of the NHL to have his jersey number retired by all member clubs. "No. 99" will never again be worn by an NHL player.
On November 22, 1999 -- seven months after his retirement -- Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada, becoming the tenth and final player in Hockey Hall of Fame history to have the mandatory three-year waiting period for enshrinement waived by the Hall's board of directors.
Included among his many accomplishments are: recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy (recognizing his outstanding contribution to hockey in the United States); named the fifth greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN's SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel (preceded only by Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown); named the greatest player in NHL history by The Hockey News' committee of 50 hockey experts; and received the Olympic Order (the highest honor bestowed by the International Olympic Committee for "outstanding contributions to the game of hockey") in 2002.