I am sure by now you have all heard the news that The Fuhrer himself has stepped down as Coach of the Hamilton Coyotes... I mean Phoenix. All day on the hockey talk radio circuit there was talk about how much Wayne had done for Phoenix and Hockey in general. They said he was the best player in the history of Hockey(im not saying he isn't) and because of that he is infallible just like The Pope. Heck, Glen Healey even left the NHLPA because someone was badmouthing Gretzky. Is Canada's infatuation with The Great One justified? Should he be free from criticism because of his distinguished Hockey career? Well lets take a look.
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Clearly, these are staggering numbers. 215 Pts in one season. 92 Goals, 2,857 pts in 1,487 games, and over 50 NHL records. that's unbelievable, and likely will never be equaled. But because of these statistics, should Gretzky be free from criticism? should we look the other way when he is implicated in a gambling ring, or when he is paid 8 million dollars per year in his first coaching job and never manages to get fired because he is the Great One? what about after 4 years of being under .500 and not making the playoffs?. He was the Coach and Head of Hockey Operations of a team that last year lost approximately $30 million Dollars. $8 Million of it -- almost one third -- was Gretzky's salary. Is that Justifiable? if he really had the best interests of Hockey, the NHL, the Phoenix Coyotes and the City of Glendale wouldn't he have stepped down? Would the Phoenix Coyotes still be in the middle of a Bankruptcy battle if Gretzky had been Fired or stepped down and then a new coach came in who led the Coyotes to the playoffs?.
It has frequently been cited that Wayne Gretzky did not benefit from his tenure with Phoenix, that he was there strictly for his love of the game, and his desire to see it grow in new markets. In fact, had a vested monetary interest in the Coyotes, because not only has he been payed $32 million over the last 4 years for coaching a team into the ground, but in may 2000 he became a minority owner when he bought a 10% stake in the team. He also convinced his former agent Michael Barnett to become the General Manager and he got his brother Keith a job as the Director of Amateur Scouting. That doesnt sound like someone who was in it strictly because he loved Hockey. That doesn't sound like someone who had nothing to gain. That doesnt sound like The Great One I grew up hearing about.
Now I want to make it clear that I'm not trying to pass judgment on Wayne but I do however want to create and encourage critical thinking. I am also not trying to belittle his achievements because most people with half a brain would list Gretzky as one of the top 3 best players of all time, including me, but I think his playing career should be view separately from his Coaching/Management career. Post your opinions in the comment box below and let me know what you think.
Thanks to HockeyDB.com for the stats, and now I leave you with a video of how The Great One earned his name.