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Wayne Gretzky resigns as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes

September 24, 2009 |  9:59 am

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NHL great Wayne Gretzky announced today he is stepping down as head coach and director of hockey operations of the Phoenix Coyotes.

In a statement posted on his website this morning, Gretzky, who has stayed away from the team during the preseason because of its ongoing bankruptcy status, said he decided to resign after it was made clear to him that he wouldn't be involved in the team's future plans. The NHL and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie are bidding for the team in a bankruptcy auction.

Coyotes general manager Don Maloney recently hired former Columbus BlueJackets coach Dave King as an assistant coach, and he's expected to be Gretzky's replacement. Gretzky implied in his statement that Maloney has already "made an excellent choice" in finding the team's next coach.

Gretzky coached the Coyotes for four seasons, amassing a career record of 143-161-24. His teams never advanced to the playoffs.

"The Great One" retired from playing in 1999 and is the NHL's all-time leading scorer. He played eight seasons with the Kings following an blockbuster trade from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988.

Read Gretzky's full statement after the jump.

"This was a difficult decision that I’ve thought long and hard about,” Gretzky said. “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.  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.

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“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,” Gretzky said.  “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.

“I want to thank every staff member of the Phoenix Coyotes, past and present.  It was a real pleasure to work with each and every one of you.  I’ve always said that Phoenix is a great sports city and deserves nothing but the best.  I still believe that. As a young boy, I learned to play hockey in Southern Ontario, and I know what great fans they have there.  It’s my hope they too will have an NHL franchise in the not too distant future.

“I often said it was the greatest honor and privilege I could imagine to be able to play in the National Hockey League.  I feel the same way about being an NHL 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.”

-- Austin Knoblauch

Top photo: Wayne Gretzky instructs players during a practice session. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Gretzky watches his son, Trevor, play in a high school football game between Westlake Village Oaks Christian and Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline on Sept. 18. Credit: Kevin P. Casey / Associated Press

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