Think of the most exciting thing about any team. If it’s not a player – you are in trouble.
Such is the case with the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team, who start this season with the sports’ best former player, Wayne Gretzky, as their head coach.
Now NHL is a special exception to this rule because 99 out of 100 Americans wouldn’t be able to name any hockey player. And of those who could, 9 out of 10 would name Gretzky, The Great One.
For the informed (and I consider myself barely informed when it comes to hockey and better informed when it comes to NBA), the answer to the headline above is, no, Gretzky cannot possibly be the like Michael Jordan when it comes to coaching. Because Jordan never coached.
Both were the best players in their sport, scaling new heights of achievement and then moving heaven and earth to build those mountains higher. Both have had championship success at the highest level across two decades.
They have since been humbled.
Jordan was part owner / part player of the Washington Wizards and by that time he was about as good at both. That is to say, not very.
Though his name alone – like Jordan before – can sell the sport, Gretzky’s line in the ice has yet to be cut.
The pre-season performance revealed blunted blades, as the Coyotes tracked a 2-6-0 record. But starting tonight, the games count as the league’s 30 teams all puck off for the start of the season. The Coyotes play the Canucks in Vancouver, Canada, tonight, and the Los Angeles Kings, in LA, Thursday.
Then they come home in a face-off against the Minnesota Wild.
Gretzky will continue as managing partner of hockey operations. In other words, like the Seahawk’s Mike Holmgren, Gretzky’s got no one else to blame if it goes wrong.
Well … maybe he could get away with pinning a little on another NHL great – 41-year-old Brett Hull, who joins the Coyotes this year.
Since June 2000 Gretzky has had his hands elbow deep in the broth of the Coyotes pot of mediocrity. That’s right, there’s been nothing special coming from the desertland ice rink. The team has finished out of the playoffs with a 22-36-18 record in the 2003-2004 season and a 31-35-11 record in the 2001-2002 season. The 2004-2005 NHL was to be the Coyotes inaugural stop at their new Glendale Sports Arena. Instead, the season was cancelled and so the team like every other team in the NHL got high-sticked and hemorrhaged money.
While the team plays away, their Arena will be visited by the Crüe’s Carnival of Sins and Neil Diamond. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that both have their best days days behind them. But they can still rock.
Wayne’s World. Wayne’s World. Ex-cellent.