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May 31, 2006

WAYNE GRETZKY SIGNS 5-YEAR DEAL

WAYNE GRETZKY SIGNS FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT AS HEAD COACH

AUDIO: LISTEN TO THURSDAY'S ENTIRE PRESS CONFERENCE

GLENDALE, ARIZONA -- Phoenix Coyotes Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shumway announced today that Wayne Gretzky has agreed to a new five-year contract to remain as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.  As per club policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“We have put in place the final management piece for the future success of the Phoenix Coyotes by continuing our partnership with Wayne Gretzky,” said Shumway.  “Wayne’s commitment, leadership and competitive drive are an integral part of the Phoenix Coyotes organization and to our quest to bring a Championship to the desert.”

In addition to serving as the Coyotes’ head coach, Gretzky also continues as part owner, managing partner and alternate governor for the Coyotes, a role that he has performed for the previous five seasons.  Gretzky officially joined the franchise on Feb. 15, 2001 when the Moyes ownership group completed the purchase of the Coyotes.

“When I announced that I would become the owner of the Phoenix Coyotes I made a commitment to our fans that I would do what was necessary to bring the Stanley Cup to Arizona,” said Jerry Moyes, the Coyotes majority investor whose ownership application is pending NHL approval.  “Signing Wayne Gretzky to a long term agreement is an important step towards fulfilling my commitment.  This agreement also reflects Wayne’s and his family’s commitment to the Phoenix Coyotes and this community.  I am very excited about our future with Wayne and this team.  I believe that this franchise is now well positioned going into the draft and unrestricted free agency.  We all look forward to an exciting and winning year next season.” 

Gretzky – the greatest player in the history of hockey – recently completed his first season as an NHL head coach.  The Coyotes finished with a 38-39-5 record and 81 points in the standings in 2005-06.  Gretzky’s record as head coach was 36-36-5 as he missed five games during the season for family reasons. 

“I’m very excited about building a championship team for the city of Phoenix and starting a partnership with Jerry Moyes,” said Gretzky.  “I very much enjoyed my first year of coaching and I look forward to the next five years with a great deal of enthusiasm.”

Under Gretzky’s leadership, the Coyotes were dramatically improved in 2005-06 compared to the previous season when the Coyotes were 14 games under the .500 mark (22-36-18-6) in 2003-04.  The Coyotes scored 246 goals and 96 power play goals in 2005-06 (compared with 188 and 51 in ’03-04) – the most goals and power play goals scored by a Coyotes team since the

franchise relocated to Phoenix in 1996.  The Gretzky-led Coyotes also improved their home record, going 19-18-4 at Glendale Arena in 2005-06 compared to 11-19-7-4 at home in 2003-04.

“He promptly earned respect as a head coach from his players and his staff,” said Coyotes Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager Michael Barnett.  “He returned that respect with delegation and dedication. Wayne’s approach to ‘team’ will benefit our organization for many years to come.”

Coyotes President and Chief Operating Officer Douglas Moss said:  “In his six years with the Phoenix Coyotes organization, Wayne has brought many things to our franchise including leadership, character, and respect.  Last season, he showed what a great coach he is and our fans and partners know that with Wayne behind the bench we will reach unparalleled levels of success both on and off the ice.”

Gretzky, 44, played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League with Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and the New York Rangers, dominating the game unlike any player in history. Gretzky helped win four Stanley Cup Championships and three Canada Cup tournament titles during his illustrious playing career.  He became the NHL’s all-time leading goal, assist and point producer for both regular season and playoffs. Gretzky won 10 Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading scorer, nine Hart Trophies as the League’s MVP (including eight consecutive seasons) and two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP. He earned five Lady Byng Trophies as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player and made 18 consecutive All-Star Game appearances, securing three All-Star MVP Awards.  Gretzky is an eight-time First All-Star Team member and seven-time Second All-Star Team member. He holds virtually every offensive record in the NHL and his tireless support of the game has contributed significantly to the popularity it enjoys today.

Gretzky’s incredible success in hockey has continued past his playing career. In a managerial role with Team Canada, Gretzky served as Executive Director for Team Canada, responsible for assembling Canada’s best hockey players at the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Under Gretzky’s leadership, Team Canada persevered to win the Gold Medal for the first time in 50 years at the 2002 Olympics. Two years later, Team Canada repeated the feat by winning the 2004 World Cup of Hockey championship.

From 1980-81 through 1987-88 as a player with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky averaged nearly 192 points per season over seven campaigns. Included are many record-shattering performances, such as: scoring 50 goals in his team’s first 39 games in 1981-82 and setting the all-time regular season mark with 92 goals by season’s end; a consecutive point-scoring streak of 51 games to start the 1983-84 season; setting an all-time single season scoring record for the playoffs with 47 points in 1984-85 and setting the all-time regular season mark with 215 points in 1985-86. The Oilers reached the Finals five times, capturing the Stanley Cup four times.

On August 9, 1988, after helping Edmonton capture a fourth Stanley Cup and winning a second Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in one of the biggest deals in sports history. Gretzky, along with teammates Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski, was dealt to Los Angeles for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three future first-

round draft choices and cash ($15 million). That August day would forever change the NHL landscape in the United States.  Gretzky joined a Kings team that had averaged just over 10,000 fans per game in its 21-year history. With Gretzky as the star attraction, hockey became one of the hottest tickets in California. By 1991, the team would become the only franchise in Southern California to sell out every home game for an entire season. Hockey’s success in a warm-weather environment paved the way for acceptance of the sport in America’s Sun Belt, enabling hockey to prosper in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. 

After eight seasons in Los Angeles, Gretzky concluded his magnificent career by spending one season with the St. Louis Blues and three seasons with the New York Rangers. Upon his retirement, Gretzky held or shared 61 NHL records (40 for regular season, 15 for Stanley Cup playoffs and 6 for All-Star Game). Following his final game, the NHL bestowed on Gretzky the unique distinction of being the only player in the history of the NHL to have his jersey number retired by all member clubs. “No. 99” will never again be worn by an NHL player.

On November 22, 1999 -- seven months after his retirement -- Gretzky was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada, becoming the tenth and final player in Hockey Hall of Fame history to have the mandatory three-year waiting period for enshrinement waived by the Hall’s board of directors.

Included among his many accomplishments are:  recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy (recognizing his outstanding contribution to hockey in the United States); named the fifth greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN’s SportsCentury’s distinguished 48-person panel (preceded only by Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown); named the greatest player in NHL history by The Hockey News’ committee of 50 hockey experts; and received the Olympic Order (the highest honor bestowed by the International Olympic Committee for “outstanding contributions to the game of hockey”) in 2002.