Friday, 25 September 2009

Which Hat Does He Wear?

As you can see to the left, Wayne Gretzky spent a lot of time looking up at the various scoreboards in NHL arenas. It's not to say that he enjoyed watching highlights, but he's never been one not to admire greatness. After all, he got a great shot of the infamous Alexander Ovechkin goal that Coyote fans are still trying to forget. However, for some people to suggest that Gretzky was "disrespected" in his release this past week is simply incredible. I've heard of ridiculous news stories, but this one has to take the cake.

Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe & Mail writes that "[t]he NHL's PR handling of Gretzky's tenuous position as creditor/employee was as adroit as everything else it's done connected to the Coyotes".

And while it's true that the NHL could have handled this much more delicately, there are a few facts that some people seem to be overlooking. Like how the NHL didn't put him in charge of the Coyotes' bench. Like how he only had one season above .500 in his four campaigns behind the bench. Like how he is, statistically, the greatest player to ever live, but how he's, statistically, a mediocre coach at best. Like how he's being paid $8 million to stand behind a bench with a sub-.500 coaching record. Like how his coaching efforts are in no way connected to his contributions to the game.

The NHL, nor Jim Balsillie for that matter, has stated that Wayne Gretzky's position as head coach is one it would like to continue to see. Yet the NHL gets thrown into the fire because of everything that Wayne Gretzky has done for the game.

Excuse me?

Why is it that the NHL is being raked over the coals while Jim Balsillie - the great "saviour" of the Canadian game - is not? Balsillie has shown more disrespect to a team that Gretzky OWNS than the NHL has in regards to his coaching status. Yes, Gretzky is a creditor. And, if Balsillie wins the auction for the franchise, Gretzky will get paid for his ownership stake.

But the NHL is the only party being accused of disrespecting the hockey legend. Forget the fact that Jim Balsillie never even extended an olive branch towards Gretzky when the bankruptcy proceedings were launched. Forget the fact that Balsillie's bid included a brand-new management team that never once gave Gretzky a vote of confidence. Yet the NHL is guilty of disrespecting the NHL legend?

Look, Wayne Gretzky's tenure as a head coach is certainly forgettable. Many in Phoenix are applauding Wayne Gretzky for having the cojones to step down in a time where every dollar the team can save is a priority. It makes good financial sense for the Coyotes for Gretzky to not cash in on the $8 million he was due in order to help the franchise. Gretzky has, once again, put the team before his own needs.

So why is it that the NHL is taking the heat for this? Why isn't Jim Balsillie guilty of disrespecting Wayne Gretzky since the outset? Where is the backlash towards the Canadian billionaire?

It seems to me that, for some people, any chance to hammer on Gary Bettman is a good one. Even if it is unfounded and ignorant.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

This is not true. Balsillie's original offer included an option for Gretzky to remain with the team when it moved to Hamilton or accept a full buyout of his contract. In fact the original offer of $212.5 million had allocated something like $20 million to Gretzky. After Gretzky either refused Balsillie's offer to come to Hamilton or failed to respond it was removed.

Anonymous said...

Specifically, the Balsillie purchase agreement said:

(c) $8,000,000.00 to be paid directly to Wayne Gretzky ("Mr. Gretzky") on behalf of Seller to discharge Seller’s deferred compensation obligation to Mr. Gretzky

(d) An “Additional Payment” of $14,500,000.00 cash (representing amounts that would be contractually owing to Mr. Gretzky under the terms of his current employment arrangement with Seller if Mr. Gretzky elected to terminate his employment
arrangement because of a sale of control of Seller) payable either:

Teebz said...

Specifically, here's what you need to know.

The part in (c) is in reference to the deferred money that Gretzky gave back as a portion of his coaching salary. He's a creditor by the terms of this deal, so he is owed this money in the bankruptcy proceedings. That $8 million was part of his salary that he never collected; rather, he gave it back to the team because they were drowning in red ink. If he is a creditor, the $8 million payout has nothing to do with respect.

The part in (d) refers to the amount of money owed to him by his coaching contract this season and next season ($6.5 million + $8 million). In other words, Balsillie was going to fire him anyway, and simply was honouring the contract that both Gretzky and the Coyotes negotiated. He was going to be fired by Balsillie as soon as he assumed control of the team. Because he still had two years left on his deal, he gets $14.5 million that he is owed.

It's the same as a coach fired in season two of a three-year deal: you still are obligated to pay him what he is owed for the remainder of that season and the next season unless he finds a new job.

Now explain to me where Jim Balsillie showed him any respect in his workings to buy the Coyotes. Because I still see none. All he did was tie off loose ends in his "deal".