As troubled pro franchises in America go, it’s hard to do much worse than the Phoenix Coyotes. As we mentioned before, the franchise is bleeding money at an astonishing rate, to the point that one former NHL official said, “If I were offered the team for a dollar, I’d say no because you can’t fix it.” So yeah. You would expect the Coyotes, then, to be cutting unnecessary costs at all opportunities. And you would be dead wrong.
According to the TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL, Wayne Gretzky (Phoenix’s head coach, head of hockey operations, and part owner) pulls down an absolutely absurd yearly salary. In a league where head coaches make about $1 million a year, Gretzky has been pulling down at least $7 million a year since signing a new contract in May 2006. That is not a typo: $7
trillion (okay, that is a typo) million. The thought, according to the GLOBE AND MAIL, had been that Gretzky would sell tickets. Err:
“He doesn’t translate to one ticket sold,” a source said. “They pimped him so much, but he didn’t represent $1.”
Not only that, but the situation is only worsening.
The Coyotes are averaging a crowd of 14,892 through 28 home games this season, which is fourth worst in the 30-team NHL. In the Gretzky era, the team has averaged 15,070 per game, compared to 15,469 the year before the 2004-05 lockout.
It’s a disgusting situation for the program, who have been taking money from the league in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. Is the franchise insolvent? Yes, probably, but once you so much as mention “contraction,” the league takes a dramatic hit; when’s the last time a major American sports league successfully absorbed a contraction? That’s WNBA or Arena Football territory, two leagues the NHL would really prefer not to call peers.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of the owners aren’t particularly amused by Gretzky’s cash grab. One unnamed owner demanded that if the Coyotes receive any of his money next year, that they (among other tasks) significantly lower Gretzky’s salary.
But yes, Gretzky is a part owner, so if he’s costing his own franchise money, then he has to take that hit too, right? He’s basically just paying himself, right? Because if he’s getting money while the franchise loses that money, then clearly this is just some circular
[Gretzky’s] contract includes a minority ownership stake in the Coyotes that does not require him to help cover any of their annual losses.
Oh. Ohhhh. Yeah, that’s not good for the Coyotes at all. Nice going, Wayne.