Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hang Up The Skates

Some people just don’t know when to quit. Athletes are extremely good at staying in the game too long. Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Franco Harris, Joe Montana, and many others tried to continue to do what they did very well, sometimes years after their skill diminished. Others tried to move in different directions within the same sport without success. This is one of them.

It is no secret that Wayne Gretzky was hockey’s greatest player, so far. Passing, shooting, puck handling, you name it, and he did it well, great in many cases. He owns or shares 61 NHL records (40 for regular season, 15 for Stanley Cup playoffs and 6 for All-Star Game). He was ranked No. 5 among North American athletes by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel. Only Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown rated higher than Gretzky. Not many players can hope to achieve anything close to what he did. And yet he wanted more.

So he took the challenge of being Managing Partner in charge of all hockey operations, Alternate Governor & Head Coach of the Phoenix Coyotes on February 15, 2001. In his first full season, the 2001-2002 season, the Coyotes went 40-27-9-6, finished second in their division and made the playoffs. The next year they finished next to last in the division with a 31-35-11-5 record. They bottomed out in 03-04 with only 22 wins and started their three-year stay with Cinderella in the basement.

In the early stages of this season, Phoenix is 3-6 and doesn’t look like it’s going to turn it around anytime soon. What can be done to get into “Wayne’s World” and let him know he just doesn’t seem to have the skills required for coaching? Or management decisions for that matter? He was criticized for some of his choices of players in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Wayne gave the nickname of “The Next One” to Sidney Crosby, stated that Sid would probably break a few of his own records, and then didn’t put him on the Canadian team. Why? Objecting to his own critique?

The sad part of this all is no one has the stones to tell him or fire him. Would you want to be the person to call Wayne Gretzky into your office and tell him he sucks? But, Wayne should know. He is a very smart person and we all are not great at everything we do. He should realize that what he’s done, what the organization has done, isn’t working.

It’s time for Wayne Gretzky to put away his ego, accept that he is human, and take this failure as something that happens to all of us.

It just took longer for it to happen to him.

~ ogre1kanobe