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Wayne Gretzky has officially returned to an NHL team in a management capacity.
The Edmonton Oilers announced Wednesday, during a ceremony in advance of the first regular season game at Rogers Place that Gretzky was named Partner and Vice Chairman for Oilers Entertainment Group.
“This has all sort of happened pretty quickly. With the encouragement of my wife and my family to really heavily get back on the horse here again to be part of an organization that has the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup,” Gretzky said.
At the event, the iconic statue of Gretzky that was at the Oilers’ former home, Rexall Place, was officially unveiled at the new building.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 12, 2016
At the World Cup of Hockey on Sept. 27, Gretzky, a four-time Stanley Cup champion and all-time league leader in scoring, was named the NHL’s Centennial Ambassador as the NHL announced plans for its 100th season. Gretzky said this position with the Oilers, where he had his greatest success as a player, is not expected to change that role.
Gretzky last was part of a team when he coached the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005-06 through 2008-09. The Coyotes went bankrupt and Gretzky resigned as head coach. He had also taken over as team as part owner in 2001.
The NHL then took over the team, but the league’s Board of Governors didn’t want to pay Gretzky the $7-8 million he was owed as coach. In 2013, it was reported that Gretzky would receive his money.
“Over the years, it’s always been fun coming back to Edmonton. I’ve had opportunities over the last three, four, five years to be involved in the National Hockey League and sort of chose to step back and take my time. When (owner) Daryl (Katz) and I met several months ago about coming back to Edmonton and being involved in the National Hockey League and the Oilers with the encouragement of Daryl and his wife and (my wife) Janet, we felt this was a really great opportunity for me to get back into the game and have a chance to do what we all want to do, win a Stanley Cup.”
Added Gretzky, “I want to be part of the National Hockey League. Everything I have in my life is because of the NHL and I’m thrilled to be back.”
He said his exact role still hadn’t been figured out, but that would come in the future.
“I’m here today and the organization has been put into place the last few years and it’s a machine that’s headed in the right direction, so from where I stand right now at this point in time, we’ll figure that out as we go along.”
Katz said Gretzky’s arrival won’t change the current Oilers hockey management structure and Gretzky will likely work more on the business side.
“Wayne will work with (CEO and vice chair) Bob Nicholson and me on all aspects of OEG business. Nothing about this changes the structure of the Edmonton Oilers’ hockey operations hierarchy. This is (general manager) Peter Chiarelli’s team and he calls the shots. He’ll continue to report to Bob Nicholson and remains 100 percent accountable to the team on the ice,” Katz said. “This is a day that has been a long time coming. The Oilers family is honored to welcome Wayne back into an official role with the organization where his legendary career began, where he will have a hand in helping both the Oilers and the city of Edmonton return to a place of prominence.”
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