September 23, 2009
The Business Of Wayne
Wayne Gretzky certainly has found himself in a bad spot in Phoenix. Despite drawing his $8 million salary he is currently not serving as head coach. This on the advice of his lawyers since he is also an owner with a vested interest in the Coyotes bankruptcy case.
The Teflon-coated patron saint of hockey has been open to criticism, particularly down in the US. Here in Canada, we are quite forgiving of his putting himself first.
That he has done so, as Stephen Brunt of The Globe and Mail suggests, should be no surprise. "Wayne Gretzky is in the Wayne Gretzky business, and has been since he was a teen."
Yet had anyone in hockey other than Gretzky put himself ahead of the team, we would never have been so forgiving. We treat Wayne different than anyone else. He is Canada's dream personified to the extreme. Not only is he the small town kid who became the best hockey player in the world, but he is also humble and kind and . . . perfect. He is who we all want to be, both on and off the ice.
We don't want to see him as a failed coach, which he is, let alone a soiled hero who dared to put himself first. We don't want to further examine his poor management track record, reeking with misguided cronyism. We want him to be the good guy who always wins.
He has always been shrewd in cashing in on his name and track record, but this Phoenix mess comes at a huge cost. Once he retired as a player we all wanted him to be hockey's guiding figure, hockey's conscience, a bigger version of Jean Beliveau.
But failure tarnishes his status just enough. He will always be The Great One, but he is no longer perfect.