On Thursday Coyotes fans finally got the news they've been waiting for all summer, that Wayne Gretzky was no longer their coach. For a very small group of human beings who have been through hell this year, this was a welcome piece of good news.
Gretzky posted a record of 143-161-24 in his four seasons behind the bench in Phoenix and only proved to be another example in the argument that extraordinary talent on the ice/field does not equate to talent behind the bench.
Those who have the ability to see the game on a different level than others often have problems relating to the average player. Meanwhile if one looks at the best coaches/managers currently in sports they were all usually middle of the road players, but have a strong understanding of the game and can teach it to others.
Gretzky became the coach of the Canadian Men's National Team before the 2002 winter olympics and led them to a gold medal. He then became the part-owner of the team and was picked to coach the team before the 2005-06 season.
There has always been a part of me who believed that this was nothing more than a publicity stunt for Gretzky's team, and like most stunts like this, went terribly wrong.
The Coyotes meanwhile face a time of turmoil and what I can only hope is the rebirth of hockey in Phoenix (yes, there was a time when the Yotes could pack the house). I honestly can't help but thinking that Gretzky is somewhat responsible for the dilemma in Phoenix right now.
I'm not claiming his fault is to an extreme extent, but that he slightly played a part in the problems this franchise currently faces. It can be debated the talent the Coyotes actually had in terms of prospects, but with a coach like Gretzky behind the bench, they failed to develop because of his inability to relate.
This led to four seasons in which they didn't see the playoffs and the fans stopped showing up. It's not all his fault, nor is the majority of it his, but one must question if he did play some part.
The Coyotes have since brought in former Dallas Stars coach, Dave Tippett. In Tippett's 6 seasons in Dallas, he led the Stars to five playoff appearances and posted a record of 271-156-28-37.
My hope is that new coach Dave Tippett can turn this franchise's fortunes around and the fans return. As much as I hate Gary Bettman, he's been somewhat accurate about building up fan bases in new, untouched markets. In almost all the Southeastern Division cities, participation youth leagues has risen dramatically and the key to a fan base is the youth.
I honestly believe that Phoenix can be a viable hockey market, it just will take some time to develop. That and keeping Jim Basille's grubby hands away from the team.
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