Wayne Gretzky turns down offer to coach Canada at Spengler Cup

Wayne Gretzky will not make his return behind the bench at this winter's Spengler Cup. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After taking a bit of time to mull it over, The Great One has decided not to make his return behind the bench at this winter’s Spengler Cup.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reported on Tuesday that Wayne Gretzky had been approached by Sean Burke about leading Canada’s team at the upcoming tournament. Burke is the general manager for the Canadian entry at what is often referred to as the oldest invitational ice hockey tournament in the world.

LeBrun reported on Wednesday afternoon that Gretzky informed Burke he would not accept the head coaching position. However, the 58-year-old did express that he was very honoured to have been considered.

“I told him I needed some time (to sort things out),” Gretzky said to LeBrun on Tuesday before he had revealed his choice. “The only problem for me is that it’s over Christmastime. It’s a tough decision to make.”

It would seem the timing and location of the tournament — the 2019 Spengler Cup is from Dec. 26-31 in Davos, Switzerland — ended up being a large factor in the outcome.

Gretzky hasn’t coached competitively since stepping down from his role as head coach of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes in September 2009. During his four seasons with the team, he put together a combined record of 143-161-24 and didn’t make the playoffs.

While he hasn’t been behind a bench in over a decade, Gretzky has found plenty of success in the sport — especially with Team Canada. He was a Senior Advisor for the men's hockey team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It was at those Games that Canada came away will the gold medal after Sidney Crosby’s iconic overtime winner against the United States in the final.

Gretzky is currently in his fourth season as Alternate Governor for the Edmonton Oilers. According to the Oilers’ website, the position has him working “closely with owner Daryl Katz, and Oilers Chairman Bob Nicholson in all aspects of the organization.”

With Gretzky out, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Wednesday that Craig MacTavish could be an option for Burke. He was the head coach of the Oilers for eight-plus seasons between 2000 and 2015.

After winning three-straight Spengler Cups from 2015-17, Team Canada fell 2-1 to Finland’s KalPa Kuopio in the 2018 final.

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