In probably the worst kept secret in hockey over the past two years, The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, has finally become the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a team he co-owns.
Many industry pundits have questioned this move, considering that Gretzky has never coached before at any level. I thought it a bad idea as well.
But I was talking to my best friend, Jay, on his birthday, and he told me that having Gretzky coach was a great idea for two reasons.
One, the NHL is in shambles after spending nearly a year in a lockout.
Two, fan apathy is huge with hard-core fans and casual fans alike.
Both reasons are key to Jay's statement. Wayne should coach because, win or lose, the hockey fans will be interested. Here is the Great One, the epitome of skill and grace in ice hockey, back out into the media spotlight. If nothing else, hearing the name "Gretzky" will make people's ears twitch up and listen because that's how great his contributions have been to the sport.
But I disagree. It is a bad idea for Gretzky to coach. He has never coached on any level, he is an owner of the very team he's coaching, and how can you coach what he knows?
Gretzky's skill, in his playing days, were about as sublime as you can get, with the exception of Mario Lemieux. You cannot coach vision and intuition, something that might be very hard for Wayne when he wonders why his players can't do what he did.
When you are Wayne "Buddha" Gretzky, and have been to the top of the mountain, how can you enlighten others? Buddha had disciples and when he gathered a hundred of them to chose his successor, only one person even understood his methods. And I don't think there is one in the current Coyotes roster.
And if the 'Yotes stink it up, how can you ask The Great One to give it up? I have read that such a scenario had been mentioned to Phoenix's chairman, Steve Ellman, who promptly stated that Wayne would know when Wayne should go. Really now? Name for me a coach that has thought like that, in any sport, in the past two decades.
Many of the current coaches in the NHL were never great players. Some were never players at all. And maybe that's why they are good coaches, because they know how to translate that player's hard work into something more. They are able to make the players transcend their abilities.
But Wayne has never done this. Oh sure, there are those who say that he guided Canada to its first hockey gold medal in fifty years at the 2002 Olympics. The Canadians also won the World Cup in 2004 under his watch. But he wasn't coaching the team, and besides, when you have a talented roster like Canada did, it's not a real trick.
While it is a great marketing device to have Hall-of-Famer Wayne Gretzky coach in the not-even-as-popular-as-Texas Hold 'Em-poker-tournaments NHL, he won't make the Coyotes a better team. Sure, they might make the playoffs (are you listening, Jim Mora, Sr.?), but they won't win the Stanley Cup under his tutelage.
However, for the sake of the NHL, when Mario Lemieux wants to coach, I hope Wayne is still around.
- Music:Pantera - Walk (Live)