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Greg Wyshynski

Coyotes lucky that Gretzky's salary doesn't count against cap

Greg Wyshynski
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When you think of the Phoenix Coyotes, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Apathy? Technicolor uniforms? Shane Doan? The brink of financial ruin?

Nah ... the first thing that probably comes to mind is that their coach and minority owner happens to be the greatest player in NHL history (pipe down for a minute, Bobby Orr fans).

Wayne Gretzky is the head of hockey operations, managing partner, alternate governor, minority owner and head coach of the Coyotes. He has a lifetime record behind the bench of 132-148-22, without a postseason appearance in four seasons. Gretzky's the face of the franchise, and was instrumental in keeping the team in Arizona during some earlier harsh times.

So how much is that worth? According to the Globe & Mail, in its unofficial continuing series on the Coyotes' struggles, a ton of dough:

Gretzky earns between $7-million and $8-million (all currency U.S.) per year on a five-year contract, or more than seven times the average annual salary for an NHL head coach ... The contract is so generous that even though Gretzky was said by one source to have agreed to defer up to half his salary this season, he would still be the best-paid bench boss in the league."

Uh, wow. An anonymous source was allowed to slam Gretzky by saying, "He doesn't translate to one ticket sold ... They pimped him so much, but he didn't represent $1." Classy.

The Globe reports that if the NHL needs to increase the financial assistance it's giving the Coyotes beyond the current advancement of revenue sharing funds, it'll need approval from the rest of the League's franchises and will also likely come at the expense of Gretzky's elephantine contract -- or at least a good portion of it.

The paper also offers news about Gary Bettman's search for new ownership in Phoenix:

The league has approached Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the NBA's Chicago Bulls and baseball's Chicago White Sox, as well as the owners of basketball's Phoenix Suns and baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. All three declined.

Your heart goes out to the Yotes fans, who are dealing with this barrage of pitiful news while watching their team lose eight of 10 games to fall out of the postseason picture.

Now, they're hearing about coach whose last postseason appearance was in a Rangers uniform in 1997 earning more than any player on the roster; at a time when the Coyotes are creeping closer to another sell-off. Just another reason why people are too quick to blame the fans in struggling markets when management's the ones that have excrement on their hands.

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