The morph of Wayne Gretzky into the Pete Rose of hockey has been put on indefinite hold. Reports today say the Gretzkys will not be charged, probably won't be called as witnesses and are not even "persons of interest" in the case." That's good both for hockey and the Great One's place in history.
Now if I'm a Coyotes fan, I might be looking at this thing differently. I think this series of unfortunate incidents bares to the world glaring problems with Coyotes leadership. It looks like nothing less than the Wayne Gretzky cult of personality home-boy club. General Manager, Mike Barnett, made his name in hockey as a high powered hockey agent with IMG - Gretzky's agent. As far as I can tell from Coyotes media, he has joined the 'Yotes with no background in hockey player-personnel development. The team had the former Hockey News' "Man of the Year and "Executive of the Year," and Hall of Famer, Cliff Fletcher, in place as Executive VP and GM, but he "...relinquished his duties to Barnett in 2001 (direct quote from a Coyotes game program)." Fletcher is now a senior executive vp in charge of hockey ops, but Barnett is GM and Alternate Governor. Don't governors trump senior executive vp's? Looks to me like Fletcher is managing office supplies and time cards for the janitorial staff. How much you wanna bet that personnel decisions are made by Gretzky and Barnett's role is to respond, "Yes Mahhhhsturrrr (channeling Darth Vader)."
As a potential Coyotes fan living two hours south, I'm starting to look at Gretzkgate from a different perspective. I'm seeing a Wayne's World where Gretzky has surrounded himself with a posse of cronies and yes men - a world where nobody tells Wayner "NO!" let alone, "What? Are you F'n nuts?"
I don't condone in any way the media feeding frenzy of last week. Just because Gretz' has successfully crafted a reality that places him in absolute power over his environs isn't cause to crucify the guy. And placing a bet through a bookie is not illegal in NJ.
It's also not illegal to demonstrate a total lack of common sense or self-restraint. In his column the other day, John Buccigross said:
Your $100 entry fee for a fantasy football league is comparable to an
NHL player's $10,000 bet on NFL games. This story is about really only two
people, and maybe three if you are an NHL fan. Janet Jones-Gretzky is not one of
those people. If she wants to bet $100,000 during the NFL playoffs, whatever.
What are she and her husband worth? $30 million? A $100,000 bet is three percent of Janet's net worth, assuming her and Wayne share everything.
I try not to begrudge folks their fortunes, and I don't want somebody to tell me what I should do with my millions (if ever). I just can't fathom ever making the jump to thinking it's a gas to bet five figures on a coin flip. Lots of folks in my life would be there to tell me, "You're an idiot!"
Around November, you started seeing trade rumors hinting that the Coyotes were looking to pull off deals to bring in "character guys." One of the first things I learned as a junior officer in the Navy was that all organizations take on the personality of their leadership. If the 'Yotes are looking for character guys, I think they need to start in the executive suite.