Wayne Gretzky resigns as Coyotes coach

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PHOENIX -- Wayne Gretzky has resigned as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Gretzky's departure had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the financially troubled team dragged on.

Gretzky said in a statement Thursday on his Web site that both bidders have "made it clear" that he doesn't fit into their future plans.

Gretzky, who is due to make $8.5 million this season, coached the Coyotes from 2005-2009, finishing with a 143-161-24 record.

There was no immediate word on a replacement.

Statement from Gretzky

“This was a difficult decision that I’ve thought long and hard about. We all hoped there would be a resolution earlier this month to the Coyotes ownership situation, but the decision is taking longer than expected. Since both remaining bidders have made it clear that I don’t fit into their future plans, I approached General Manger Don Maloney and suggested he begin looking for someone to replace me as coach. Don has worked hard and explored many options. I think he has made an excellent choice, and so now it’s time for me to step aside.

“The Coyotes scouting staff has put together a great group of young and talented players who are going to improve tremendously over the next few years,” continued Gretzky. “I’m proud of the team we’ve assembled, the organization with which I’ve been associated and the thousands of dedicated fans who have never wavered in their support of this young team. I’m confident that the best is yet to come for hockey in Phoenix.

“I want to thank every staff member of the Phoenix Coyotes, past and present. It was a real pleasure to work with each and every one of you. I’ve always said that Phoenix is a great sports city and deserves nothing but the best. I still believe that. As a young boy, I learned to play hockey in Southern Ontario, and I know what great fans they have there. It’s my hope they too will have an NHL franchise in the not too distant future.

“I often said it was the greatest honor and privilege I could imagine to be able to play in the National Hockey League. I feel the same way about being an NHL coach. I’ve loved the four years I spent coaching the Coyotes. Not a day went by when I took it for granted, and I will miss the competition of the NHL dearly. It was an honor to hold the position, and I will always consider myself especially fortunate to have had this opportunity.”

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)