UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 4:37 p.m. ET by Tyler Conway
Gretzky's impending return to an NHL front office was apparently news to him. According to CBC Sports' Doug Harrison, Gretzky has categorically denied he will replace Brian Burke as Maple Leafs president: "Wayne Gretzky says there is "100 per cent" no truth to the rumour he will succeed the fired Brian Burke as president of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs."
Gretzky later stated that there hasn't even been anyone in Toronto to directly contact with him about a post with the team:
---End of update---
Directly? No. I’ve spent a lot of time with people in the [Maple Leafs] organization but not one time has there even been any direct contact. Really, the only team I’ve talked to about being involved is [general manager] Dean Lombardi and the L.A. Kings.
UPDATE: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 11:10 a.m. ET by Sam Westmoreland
The buzz around this rumored discussion has died down pretty quickly courtesy of a report from David Shoalts. The Globe and Mail writer said that the team is denying any contact with either Gretzky or his representatives.
Two sources close to MLSE board say there is nothing to the notion of the company looking at Wayne Gretzky as CEO or president or whatever.— David Shoalts (@dshoalts) January 23, 2013
The Great One had previously been involved in team management in Phoenix, and most believed he had little interest in returning to the management end of running a club. However, the Maple Leafs would have been a unique case, as the biggest, most popular club in Canada. In the end, though, it seems there was little truth to the rumor that Gretzky would be jumping back into the front office so quickly.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos tweeted that there is good reason for this buzz:
Can definitively say preliminary discussionswithin MLSE have taken place. "@fadoobobcat: Gretzky next Prez. of the Leafs? There is a buzz"— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) January 22, 2013
Meanwhile, TSN's Bob McKenzie offers up a distinctly conflicting tweet:
TML presidency one of few jobs in hockey 99 would seriously consider but no direct contact between MLSE and Gretzky camp has been made.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 22, 2013
There is some wiggle room in McKenzie's tweet with the mention of "direct contact," and the "preliminary discussions" referenced in the tweet by Kypreos may not have involved direct contact with Gretzky.
After firing general manager Brian Burke, the Maple Leafs promoted Dave Nonis to general manager. Replacing Burke is not a new process for Nonis. He did the same thing in 2004 with the Vancouver Canucks, and he served the team in that position until 2008.
He served the following season as senior adviser of hockey operations for the Anaheim Ducks before jumping over to the Maple Leafs. Nonis is an experienced hockey man and a competent general manager.
So, the ultimate say that Gretzky would have on the roster would likely be determined in any negotiations for this job. Either way, the addition of Gretzky would definitely boost the hockey pedigree of the front office.
Maple Leafs COO Tom Anselmi is currently serving as the team's president, but he lacks a strong hockey background. Gretzky certainly brings that.
Gretzky has been out of the league since 2009 when his working relationship with the Phoenix Coyotes came to an end. He spent nine years there as the alternate governor, managing partner and the head of hockey operations. From 2005 to 2009 he also served as the head coach.
Gretzky's time with the Phoenix Coyotes was not fruitful, and it would be a big leap of faith to expect him to be able to help this franchise by making roster decisions.
Of course, that followed one of the most brilliant careers the sports world has ever seen. Gretzky is a living legend. His involvement with any franchise in any capacity is going to create an instant buzz.
No matter what his input on the roster would be, having the The Great One as the figurehead of the franchise would be a huge boost to the Maple Leafs' marketability.
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