November 19, 2011
Wayne Gretzky revealed two things in his interview with Fox Sports Radio on Friday night.
First, that he doesn't "have $1.7 billion laying around," which makes us seriously wonder when the residual checks from "ProStars" stopped arriving in the mailbox.
Second, that he has no idea who's trying to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs and hasn't spoken to anyone about being a part-owner of the Leafs.
Which is odd, really, when you consider Gretzky confirmed to Sportsnet that he had been "approached by multiple firms considering the purchase of MLSE."
Or did he?
In summary: Providence Equity Partner, a US-based financial firm, has been sniffing around the purchase of MLSE and the Toronto Maple Leafs. After initial backlash against dirty, stinkin', no-good Americans buying the Leafs — all of Toronto was in a panic over having to explain what icing was to the new owners — news was leaked that the firm had reached out to Wayne Gretzky to be their ownership group window dressing.
The Great One has shot that down, and the original story has changed a bit.
Here's Gretzky with the attempt to debunk, via FOX Sports Tonight:
"It was basically news to me. First of all, it's an unreal franchise. It's up there with the Rangers and the Knicks and the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys. It's a special place. It was more news to me than other people, but I'm really enjoying what I'm doing. I was really having a relaxing day yesterday, minding my own business and playing golf.
"I can tell you unequivocally I don't even know who is in the running to buy the Toronto Maple Leafs. I have not talked to anyone who has the possibility of buying the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Whoever it is, they're buying a great franchise. It's a great city. It's an unreal hockey city. I wish them all the best of luck. They got a lot of good things in place there, and I'm sure it'll be phenomenal for whoever buys the team."
Was Gretzky getting cute here, denying having "talked to anyone" because it's his representation doing all the talking? Perhaps.
But didn't he say, on the record, he had spoken to "multiple firms considering the purchase of MLSE"? Yeah, about that: We noticed the quote has been removed from the original Sportsnet story.
So did Damien Cox of the Toronto Star, who writes:
"Yes, I've been approached by multiple firms considering the purchase of MLSE," was the direct quote reported on Sportsnet.ca. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos said today he got that quote and permission to attribute it to Gretzky from a member of Gretzky's inner circle, but was then subsequently told there was a miscommunication and asked that it be pulled from the Sportsnet web site.
Kypreos, however, said he remains convinced Gretzky was contacted about his possible interest.
Sportsnet's John Shannon, a longtime hockey television executive and former NHL executive, cited two other "impeccable" hockey sources confirming that Gretzky had been contacted and reported the story for Sportsnet. "Wayne may be backtracking, but I stand by my sources and the story," Shannon said today. "I believe in them and what they told me."
Back to old 99. Unless he is going to suit up, I don't care what he does. Honest, owner, coach, GM….Yawn. Maybe that's anti-Canadian, maybe it's anti-hockey. I don't find his life after hockey all that interesting, relevant or important. Gretzky as an owner has no bearing on my interest, nor do I think on the success or potential success of a franchise. 99 lives south of the border. Like many famous Canucks, he doesn't live in Canada anymore. I have no problem with that. I've lived in the States. My kids were born in the States. I don't see how 99 fronting an ownership group (and make no mistake that is all it ever would be) ads any value.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this: Does Wayne Gretzky believe he won't be able to play golf all day if he's the front-man for a Leafs ownership group? Because if that's the holdup …
Here's the Gretzky interview segment with FOX: