Wayne Gretzky Becomes the Phoenix Coyotes Head Coach

Almost immediately after retirement, several NHL teams approached him about an ownership role.

In May 2000, he agreed to buy a 10% stake in the Phoenix Coyotes in a partnership with majority owner Steve Ellman, taking on the roles of alternate governor, managing partner and head of hockey operations. The Coyotes were in the process of being sold and Ellman convinced Gretzky to come on board, averting a potential move to Portland, Oregon. The sale was not completed until the following year, on February 15, 2001, after two missed deadlines while securing financing and partners before Ellman and Gretzky could take over. The sale completed with the addition to the partnership of Jerry Moyes. Gretzky convinced his long-time agent Michael Barnett to join the team as its General Manager.
In 2005, rumors began regarding Gretzky becoming the head coach of the team, but were denied by Gretzky and the Coyotes. He agreed to become head coach on 8 August 2005. Gretzky made his coaching debut on 5 October, and won his first game on 8 October against the Minnesota Wild. He took an indefinite leave of absence on 17 December to be with his ill mother. Phyllis Gretzky died of lung cancer on 19 December. Gretzky resumed his head-coaching duties on 28 December.
In 2006, Moyes became majority owner of the team, and Ellman majority owner of the Glendale Arena and Westgate development. There was uncertainty about Gretzky's role until it was announced on 31 May 2006 that he had agreed to a five-year contract to remain head coach. He remains a minority owner and managing partner.

2005, Nov. 8 – Yanick Lehoux scores a goal on his first NHL shift just 65 seconds into his NHL debut. The goal is the fastest goal ever by a Coyotes/Jets player making his NHL debut.

2005, Oct. 27 – Curtis Joseph earns his 400th NHL victory in a 3-2 win over Calgary.

2005, Oct. 15 – Brett Hull announces his retirement after 19 NHL seasons. A future Hockey Hall of Famer, Hull leaves as the NHL’s active goal-scoring leader with an amazing 741 goals, which also ranks third on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list (trailing only Wayne Gretzky’s 894 and Gordie Howe’s 801).

2005, Oct. 8 – In a ceremony at Glendale Arena, the team unveils the Coyotes Ring of Honor with Wayne Gretzky (No. 99) and Bobby Hull (No. 9) as the initial members.

2005, Oct. 8 – Wayne Gretzky earns his first win as an NHL head coach as the Coyotes defeat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in the club’s home opener.

2005, Oct. 5 – Wayne Gretzky makes his regular season coaching debut as the Coyotes lose 3-2 at Vancouver.

2005, Aug. 8 - In the biggest announcement in franchise history, Wayne Gretzky is named head coach of theCoyotes. Gretzky, who becomes a head coach for the first time, continues in his role as managing partner in addition to his coaching duties. On the same day, he names Barry Smith, Rick Bowness and Rick Tocchet as his associate coaches.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA -- Phoenix Coyotes Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shumway announced today that Wayne Gretzky has agreed to a new five-year contract to remain as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.

“We have put in place the final management piece for the future success of the Phoenix Coyotes by continuing our partnership with Wayne Gretzky,” said Shumway. “Wayne’s commitment, leadership and competitive drive are an integral part of the Phoenix Coyotes organization and to our quest to bring a Championship to the desert.”

In addition to serving as the Coyotes’ head coach, Gretzky also continues as part owner, managing partner and alternate governor for the Coyotes, a role that he has performed for the previous five seasons. Gretzky officially joined the franchise on Feb. 15, 2001 when the Moyes ownership group completed the purchase of the Coyotes.

“When I announced that I would become the owner of the Phoenix Coyotes I made a commitment to our fans that I would do what was necessary to bring the Stanley Cup to Arizona,” said Jerry Moyes, the Coyotes majority investor whose ownership application is pending NHL approval. “Signing Wayne Gretzky to a long term agreement is an important step towards fulfilling my commitment. This agreement also reflects Wayne’s and his family’s commitment to the Phoenix Coyotes and this community. I am very excited about our future with Wayne and this team. I believe that this franchise is now well positioned going into the draft and unrestricted free agency. We all look forward to an exciting and winning year next season.”

Gretzky – the greatest player in the history of hockey – recently completed his first season as an NHL head coach. The Coyotes finished with a 38-39-5 record and 81 points in the standings in 2005-06. Gretzky’s record as head coach was 36-36-5 as he missed five games during the season for family reasons.

“I’m very excited about building a championship team for the city of Phoenix and starting a partnership with Jerry Moyes,” said Gretzky. “I very much enjoyed my first year of coaching and I look forward to the next five years with a great deal of enthusiasm.”

Under Gretzky’s leadership, the Coyotes were dramatically improved in 2005-06 compared to the previous season when the Coyotes were 14 games under the .500 mark (22-36-18-6) in 2003-04. The Coyotes scored 246 goals and 96 power play goals in 2005-06 (compared with 188 and 51 in ’03-04) – the most goals and power play goals scored by a Coyotes team since the franchise relocated to Phoenix in 1996. The Gretzky-led Coyotes also improved their home record, going 19-18-4 at Glendale Arena in 2005-06 compared to 11-19-7-4 at home in 2003-04.

“He promptly earned respect as a head coach from his players and his staff,” said Coyotes Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager Michael Barnett. “He returned that respect with delegation and dedication. Wayne’s approach to ‘team’ will benefit our organization for many years to come.”

Coyotes President and Chief Operating Officer Douglas Moss said: “In his six years with the Phoenix Coyotes organization, Wayne has brought many things to our franchise including leadership, character, and respect. Last season, he showed what a great coach he is and our fans and partners know that with Wayne behind the bench we will reach unparalleled levels of success both on and off the ice.”

Gretzky, 44, played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League with Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, dominating the game unlike any player in history. Gretzky helped win four Stanley Cup Championships and three Canada Cup tournament titles during his illustrious playing career. He became the NHL’s all-time leading goal, assist and point producer for both regular season and playoffs. Gretzky won 10 Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading scorer, nine Hart Trophies as the League’s MVP (including eight consecutive seasons) and two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP. He earned five Lady Byng Trophies as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player and made 18 consecutive All-Star Game appearances, securing three All-Star MVP Awards. Gretzky is an eight-time First All-Star Team member and seven-time Second All-Star Team member. He holds virtually every offensive record in the NHL and his tireless support of the game has contributed significantly to the popularity it enjoys today.