Wayne Gretzky's 50th Birthday Ignored as Quiet Dispute With NHL Continues
But unless there's a sudden thaw in relations, that's not about to happen.
As bizarre as it sounds, Wayne Gretzky is not connected to the NHL these days. The holder of four dozen NHL records has stepped away from the NHL over the Phoenix Coyotes saga.
The history books will show that the NHL basically threw Gretzky under the bus during its court battle with Jim Basillie when he tried to wrest control of the Phoenix Coyotes in bankruptcy court.
Gretzky was coach of the Coyotes at the time and he stepped back from the fray and it cost him. He's owed at least $8.5 million in guaranteed money, and the total could jump to $20 million when all is said and done.
Gretzky, as is his custom, has been mum on the subject since he walked away after being deemed an unsecured creditor in Phoenix.
He had every right to sue the league and he didn't. And he had more than enough ammo to embarrass the NHL.
But that is not his style. Never was and never will be.
The NHL hopes to complete the purchase of the Coyotes in the near future, although several hurdles remain. The NHL bought the Coyotes for $140 million in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court auction in October 2009, and could have as much as $175 million invested now, since it covered the Coyotes' losses through this summer.
In other words, the NHL will be lucky to break even, and the spin will be that they did.
That leaves Gretzky in limbo and while there is no need to hold a tag day for him, he's owed what he is owed.
It's absolutely ludicrous for Gretzky not to be part of the NHL. It makes no sense at all, and the owners know it. Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet in Toronto reported this week that at least two NHL governors, Philadelphia's Ed Snider and Dave Checketts of St. Louis, stood up at a recent board meeting and said the NHL has to pay Gretzky and get him back on board.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman likes to boast how the NHL is on track for record revenues of $2.9 billion this season, and you'd think he'd find a way to use some of that cash to do the right thing. It's a small price for doing business.
Bettman probably wouldn't be commissioner if it weren't for the impact Gretzky had on hockey in the United States.
Gretzky introduced hockey to more people that the NHL would care to admit.
There are three teams in California, and teams in Sun Belt cities like Miami, Phoenix, Tampa Bay, and Florida, along with franchises in Nashville and Atlanta. Have they all been a success? No.
Will one of them move? Most likely yes and to Canada, and that's brings up something else for Gretzky. Would he move to Canada if a team were relocated to Winnipeg, for example?
That's a moot point, however, given how the NHL and Gretzky are not talking.
Gretzky should be at the All-Star Game, and the Winter Classic and the NHL Draft. He's the best and greatest ambassador the NHL has ever had.
There is only one No, 99 and it's criminal that he'd not making his way to the All-Star Game to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.
Bettman should make mending the fence with Gretzky -- the man who provided hockey fans with countless memories from his 20-year NHL career -- his No. 1 priority.
It's just bad form for the NHL to be at odds with The Great One.