Sources: Gretzky will remain coach for next five seasons

Updated: May 31, 2006, 3:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHOENIX -- Wayne Gretzky has agreed to a five-year deal to remain coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a team official told The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

The Coyotes have called a Wednesday news conference to announce the deal.

The official, who declined to be identified because the announcement had not yet been made, confirmed media reports that Gretzky had decided to return as coach.

Gretzky's decision was not a surprise. Owner Jerry Moyes said recently that he expected Gretzky, who is also the team's managing partner, to return and that the Coyotes had no plans to find a replacement.

Gretzky, a minority owner of the Coyotes, might also gain more ownership stake as part of the new deal, according to multiple published reports.

The Coyotes finished 12th in the Western Conference (38-39-5), a distant 14 points out of the final playoff spot.

Phoenix's preseason optimism began to erode when Brett Hull, a likely future Hall of Famer brought in to provide veteran leadership, retired five games into the season. Injuries to goalie Brian Boucher in the exhibition opener and to Ladislav Nagy in February also hurt the team.

Gretzky also dealt with the death of his mother, Phyllis, at 64 because of lung cancer.

And there was the February arrest of assistant coach Rick Tocchet for allegedly running an illegal sports gambling ring. The scandal touched Gretzky when it was revealed that his wife, Janet, had placed bets.

It all added up to another forgettable season for the Coyotes, whose last playoff series victory came in 1987, when they were the Winnipeg Jets.

Gretzky had promised personnel moves during the offseason. One of those moves was keeping netminder Curtis Joseph in Phoenix. Last week, the Coyotes re-signed Joseph to a one-year deal.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.