GLENDALE, Ariz. – Wayne Gretzky's tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a period marked largely by on-ice futility, ended abruptly Thursday when the "Great One" announced he would be stepping down amid the financial turmoil surrounding the team.
Gretzky's departure had been rumored as the bankruptcy court battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and the NHL over the sale of the team dragged on. Gretzky confirmed he was leaving on his Web site.
"This was a difficult decision that I've thought long and hard about," Gretzky said in a statement Thursday on his Web site. "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 manager 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."
Gretzky, who was due to make $8.5 million this season, coached the Coyotes from 2005-2009, finishing with a 143-161-24 record, and the team missed the playoffs in all four seasons. Gretzky, 48, also owns a small piece of the franchise.