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Dreger: Gretzky could be back but it won't be anytime soon

Darren Dreger
9/24/2009 7:29:05 PM
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Wayne Gretzky wants to coach again.

He feels he still has a lot to prove, so if the right situation comes along, then yes, No. 99 will consider returning to the bench.

However, don't expect Gretzky to surface anytime soon.

He'll lay low for a while, allowing the wounds from what has been an extremely difficult emotional battle to heal.

At best, on the short-term, perhaps he'll consider returning to a more active role with Hockey Canada, adding another experienced voice to the management mix in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Bob Nicholson, the president of Hockey Canada, confirmed his interest in bringing Gretzky back into the Hockey Canada fold and reacted to Gretzky's decision to step down as head coach and director of hockey operations for the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Wayne Gretzky has taken the high road again and he continues to amaze me on how he always puts the game first," Nicholson told TSN.

"Everyone sees his involvement at the Olympic and World Cup level, but he helps us at every level, especially grassroots," Nicholson added.

"I look forward to working with him in the future."

Caught in the battle over the Phoenix Coyotes, Gretzky has endured months of verbal beatings, mostly targeted at his salary and earnings as a minority owner.

He waited patiently for a ruling - something to clearly identify the direction of the team - and sat silent even though it became evident the two remaining bids weren't interest in assuming years four and five of his existing contract.

That wait hit the breaking point this week when Gretzky, who had been hoping for some direction from the NHL, heard nothing.

Commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement hours after Gretzky had announced his decision:

"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."

It's believed Bettman spoke to Gretzky a couple of weeks ago and tried to reach out to him in the past few days, but was unsuccessful and may not have been able to extend any more interest than what his farewell statement indicates.

Some insist that Jerry Reinsdorf, whose original bid also excluded Gretzky's contract, will swiftly purchase the Coyotes from the NHL if the league is awarded the team.  Further speculation suggests that it's for that exact reason that the National Hockey League had to keep its distance from the Great One.

Dave Tippett, hired as Gretzky's successor, is a good coach and the Coyotes will do well under his leadership.

It's too bad that the circumstances under which Tippett was brought on board weren't more traditional.

Darren Dreger

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