In a perfect world, Wayne Gretzky would be the Commissioner of the NHL.
He knows the game, both from a playing perspective, and as an executive (He was a head coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, but that didn't go over so well, and was the GM of Team Canada that won the gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.).
Yes, he probably would be the fans' first choice as the next commish, but in the NHL, the Board of Governors (aka the owners) decides who runs the league, and right now (and for the foreseeable future), Gary Bettman is el jefe.
Bettman has done an exceptional job for the league. The league is very healthy right now, and is making huge revenues. Despite the fact that they have a few unhealthy situations in Arizona, Florida and Carolina, the league is pretty strong, with hockey thriving in all of the major markets, and the game flourishing in California.
So that Wayne Gretzky as Commissioner fantasy just got a bucket of cold water thrown on it.
One position that Gretzky would thrive in is being a figurehead owner. Of course he wouldn't be the one signing the paychecks or making the major decisions, but someone that would be the face of the franchise until the team starts developing great players.
The best example of this is Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yes, when Magic does an interview with ESPN or Fox Sports, he is introduced as the owner of the Dodgers. But if you follow sports closely, you know that's only a bit true. Magic is part of Guggenheim Partners, LLC, which is a group of investors that owns the Dodgers. Magic is a part of that group, and owns a stake in the team, but is just a small part of the investment pie.
Magic is basically playing the role of Jack Tunney. He was the President of the World Wrestling Federation from 1984-1995, but that was just an on-screen role. In reality, he was the main promoter for WWF Canada, who booked towns in various Canadian cities.
Being a figurehead owner would be a role best suited for Wayne Gretzky. His name has been linked with potential Seattle ownership groups looking to bring a team to Washington State. What better way for the NHL to get a huge pop in the city than by bringing in "The Great One"? His name recognition alone would generate a buzz in a city that hasn't had a major league hockey franchise since the Roaring Twenties.
The NHL wants Seattle. There's no question about it. That's why the league was so boo-boo faced when Chris Hansen, Victor Coleman and Ray Bartoszek did not put in bids for an expansion team. In reality, the league wants two more teams in the West.
Sorry, Quebec Nordiques fans.
It's not a knock on Canadian cities at all, but putting Seattle and Las Vegas into the National Hockey League fixes hockey's problem of having 14 teams in the West, and 16 in the East (then if a team, say Florida or Carolina, does relocate to Quebec, it's really no big deal because the West already has 16 teams).
When the city of Seattle does eventually agree to build a new arena for the new Sonics and Metros (I just love that name), Chris Hansen should call up Gretzky.
Hansen: "Hey Wayne, it's Chris Hansen."
Gretzky: "How are you? How's that plan coming to bring the Sonics back to Seattle?"
Hansen: "Great! Got a new arena approved. The Mariners won't like it, but hey, they don't like much of anything that doesn't involve baseball or Nintendo, so screw 'em!"
Gretzky: "Well, what can I help you with? I got a noon tennis date with Alan Thicke and my son-in-law Dustin Johnson."
Hansen: "I got a business proposition for you. One that involves just wearing a suit, talking to the media, and smiling."
Gretzky: "Sure, I like smiling! I'm always so happy! Except when my daughter decides to post dirty pics on Twitter! I told her to stop doing that!"
Hansen: (Hansen is thinking dirty thoughts about Paulina Gretzky) "Well Wayne, that's obviously a tough position to be in, but this job opportunity is not. Basically you would be the figurehead President of our new NHL team. You would basically act as our main guy when it came to PR, meet-and-greets, etc. etc."
Gretzky: "That sounds great! Can I bring Marty McSorley, Dave Semenko and Jari Kurri with me?"
What A Perfect NHL Scenario in Seattle Would Look Like
- The city of Seattle approves a new arena right next to Safeco Field (just to tick off Nintendo and the Mariners).
- Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer put in a bid for an NHL team.
- Sony or Microsoft decides to provide naming rights to the new arena (just to tick off Nintendo and the Mariners).
- Wayne Gretzky becomes the figurehead President of the new Seattle Metros (complete with the old school red and green barber shop pole logo).
- Start a Twitter war with the Vancouver Canucks, calling the Sedin brothers a bunch of "patsies" (I happen to like the Sedins a lot-just would be funny) and then "challenge them to a duel (in Roger Rees' voice in "Robin Hood-Men in Tights" voice)."
- Pearl Jam plays a set right before the first NHL game in Seattle.
- After the success of the new Seattle franchise, Paul Allen decides he wants in on the fun, buys the Arizona Coyotes, moves them to Portland, renames them the "Portland Beavers," and a 3-team Pacific Northwest hockey war begins with Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.
- World peace is achieved.
A new Seattle franchise would benefit greatly from having a guy like Wayne Gretzky being the face of their team. He has a squeaky clean image, casual fans like him, and he brings professionalism and prestige to any franchise, especially a new franchise.
Just don't let him coach.
For the love of God.