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Gretzky steps down as Coyotes coach

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Former King Wayne Gretzky is no longer coach and director of Hockey Operations for the Phoenix Coyotes

Wayne Gretzky has resigned as coach and director of hockey operations with the Phoenix Coyotes.

"This was a difficult decision that I've thought long and hard about," Gretzky wrote in a post on his official 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 Manger Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach.

"I've loved the four years I spent coaching the Coyotes. Not a day went by when I took it for granted, and I will miss the competition of the NHL dearly. It was an honor to hold the position, and I will always consider myself especially fortunate to have had this opportunity."

There was no word on if Gretzky would continue with the club in any other role. He has been managing partner and a part-owner since 2000. The club currently is at the center of a bankruptcy hearing.

"As always, Wayne placed the welfare of the team ahead of his own in making this extremely difficult decision," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "While the Coyotes have not had the degree of on-ice success that always has been Wayne's objective, 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.

“We have nothing but admiration for all that Wayne has done for the game, and are extremely hopeful there will be a prominent role for Wayne with the Coyotes if the League's bid for the Club is successful. We look forward to his continued involvement."

Gretzky was named coach in August 2005, but in four seasons the club went 143-161-24, and missed the playoffs all four seasons.

Last season, the Coyotes were fifth in the Western Conference at the All-Star break, but lost nine of its first 10 games after the break and finished 14th in the conference. They haven't made the playoffs since the 2001-02 season.

Gretzky has been away from the team since the start of training camp. Assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson has been running the team in Gretzky's absence, and veteran coach Dave King was hired Monday as an assistant. Also, former Coyote Sean Burke recently was hired as goaltending coach.

Gretzky's tenure has been marked by an attempt to develop a young core of players, led by Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Keith Yandle and Kyle Turris, complemented by veterans like team captain Shane Doan, defenseman Ed Jovanovski and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. So far, though, the group has yet to have any sustained success.

"The Coyotes scouting staff has put together a great group of young and talented players who are going to improve tremendously over the next few years," said Gretzky. "I'm proud of the team we've assembled, the organization with which I've been associated and the thousands of dedicated fans who have never wavered in their support of this young team. I'm confident that the best is yet to come for hockey in Phoenix."

There was no word on whether Samuelsson would run the team on a full-time basis, or if the club would look outside the organization for a coach.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer

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