LOS ANGELES — Wayne Gretzky, nicknamed “The Great One” for the incomparable skills that allowed him to become the NHL’s career scoring leader, apparently is preparing to test his skills in another part of the hockey world.
Gretzky resigned his position as vice chairman of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, a day after the Oilers were upset by the Winnipeg Jets and swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Various reports, including one from the New York Post, indicate Gretzky will become the lead studio analyst for TNT’s hockey broadcasts. TNT and ESPN will begin airing NHL games next season. Both reportedly had pursued Gretzky for a studio role, counting on the drawing power of his marquee value and the high regard he still holds among fans.
“With great appreciation, I wanted to let everyone know that I have decided to step away as Vice Chairman of the Edmonton Oilers effective today,” Gretzky said in a statement released on Twitter.
“The Oilers, their fans, and the city of Edmonton have meant the world to me and my family for over four decades — and that will never end. Given the pandemic and other life changes, I realize I will not be able to dedicate the time nor effort needed to support this world-class organization.
“I want to thank [owners] Daryl and Renee Katz, their family, and entire team for all the support and friendship these last several years, and wish them nothing but success.”
Gretzky, 60, retired in 1999 while a member of the New York Rangers. His NHL total of 2,857 points likely won’t be matched, though Alexander Ovechkin (730 goals at age 35) has a chance to tie or pass Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals. Gretzky coached the then-Phoenix Coyotes from the 2005-06 season through 2008-09, compiling a record of 143-161-24.
He began his NHL career in Edmonton in 1979, after the World Hockey Association ceased operations and the Oilers were among four WHA teams absorbed by the NHL. He was traded by the Oilers to the Kings on Aug. 9, 1988, and his scoring feats and star power helped trigger a hockey boom in Southern California and beyond. After several frustrating seasons with the Kings he was traded to St. Louis in February of 1996. He finished his career with the Rangers.
Gretzky returned to Edmonton in 2016 as a partner and vice chairman. The club placed a statue of him outside its arena, Rogers Place, in honor of his scoring feats while with the team and the four Cup championships he helped the Oilers win. A statue of Gretzky was installed outside Staples Center in 2002.