Coyotes' situation not dire: Gretzky
The Phoenix Coyotes may be losing millions and receiving financial aid from the NHL, but coach Wayne Gretzky has been around long enough to believe there will be a positive outcome to the team's struggles.
Gretzky told Hockey Night in Canada in a wide-ranging interview that, as has happened before with other teams in the league, all concerned parties are working hard to help the club, owned by Jerry Moyes.
"I really believe that there's an understanding here that this franchise is not moving and Mr. Moyes has made it clear that he has no intention of bankrupting this franchise. And he's made it clear that he needs investors and wants partners or somebody to be involved with him," said Gretzky.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has confirmed that the Coyotes are receiving money from the league, but claimed it was essentially advances on revenue-sharing, marketing and television money the team would be due.
Having seen several teams struggle in his 30 years in the league, Gretzky took the long view, stating the club's situation compares favourably with recent woes affecting Buffalo and Pittsburgh, franchises that were teetering but ultimately righted.
'It's Phoenix or bust'
"I don't believe our franchise is anywhere near the dire straits that those two franchises were in just [a few] years ago," he told HNIC's Scott Oake.
The terms of the club's lease with Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., is believed to be a major stumbling block to any potential deals inovling the franchise.
The city "has made it clear ... that they understood our scenario and they're willing to sit down and find a happy medium that's favourable for not only the Coyotes but obviously for [the city]."
The 48-year-old Gretzky said in the event of a worst-case scenario that moves the franchise, he wouldn't follow it to another location.
"It's Phoenix or bust," said Gretzky.
"For me, I've got five kids who've grown up in the Southwest. For me to pick up and move my family to another city is not going to happen."
Gretzky also called the recent fight-related death of Ontario hockey player Don Sanderson senseless.
The death intensified the debate over fighting in hockey. Gretzky's take could be viewed as, at best, a limited acceptance of fighting between helmeted players who don't wear visors.
"If two guys are going to fight with masks on, I think it's silly — somebody's gonna break a hand and you're going to be out for a certain amount of time," he said.
"If two guys have a mask, should they take their helmets off? No, I think that's silly [too].
"So I guess [what] I'm leading to is: Why should two guys with masks on be fighting?"
Gretzky reiterated that he doesn't plan to have a role with the 2010 Canadian Olympic squad but would give informal advice if contacted by Steve Yzerman, Bob Nicholson or others at Hockey Canada.
The hockey legend also said he has no doubt that another NHL club could thrive alongside the Maple Leafs in both the Toronto area and around Kitchener-Waterloo and Hamilton, but that's a decision for the league.
Phoenix hosts Calgary in the second game of HNIC's doubleheader on Saturday (10 p.m ET).