Opinions mixed on Gretzky's resignation

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Cliff Fletcher, Doug Gilmour, Ron Wilson and Shane Doan all have their own individual connections to the Great One.

Fletcher worked with him.

Gilmour played against him.

Wilson coached against him.

Shane Doan played for him.

And, to a man, all four men felt bad for him yesterday when Wayne Gretzky announced he was stepping down as head coach of the embattled Phoenix Coyotes franchise.

Don Cherry?

Not so much.

On a day in which Fletcher, Gilmour, Wilson and Doan all expressed sentiments that Gretzky had been unfairly slagged for not being at Coyotes training camp since it opened, the outspoken Cherry questioned The Great One’s decision-making.

“And of all things he did, he gave it to Ulf Samuelsson to coach the team,” Cherry told reporters in Winnipeg. “I guess (Samuelsson) can teach guys to backstab people or something. I don’t understand it.

“(Gretzky) should have been on the ice with his players.”

Cherry, who always considered Samuelsson a cheap-shot artist during his playing days, can at least sleep at night now that Samuelsson no longer is the head man. The Coyotes named former Dallas Stars bench boss Dave Tippett their full-time head coach last night.

Fletcher, a former member of the Coyotes front office, certainly did not share Cherry’s opinion of The Great One.

“He doesn’t deserve to be criticized,” said Fletcher, now an adviser with the Maple Leafs. “He cares. He loves the game. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“The whole situation down there is a mess, one he didn’t create.”

Gilmour agrees. As a former Calgary Flame, he faced off against Gretzky in a few Battles of Alberta, not to mention the gutwrenching loss by his Leafs to No. 99’s Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the 1993 Stanley Cup semifinals.

“It’s got to be hard, not knowing what’s going to happen with ownership and all,” said Gilmour, the coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

“I think he’s done a great job there. For him to come back, step behind the bench to be closer to the game, and to open himself up to criticism in the process, he must love (the sport).”

During his days as San Jose’s coach, Wilson’s Sharks saw a lot of Gretzky’s Coyotes. Now the bench boss of the Leafs, Wilson was caught off guard when informed of Gretzky’s divorce from the Coyotes franchise.

“It’s too bad. He’s obvious one of the greatest players ... an icon,” Wilson said. “He should be treated better than he has to this point. Maybe now this will put a stop to all that speculation he didn’t deserve.”

For those who want to rip Gretzky for his coaching, Doan inferred that The Great One didn’t have the group of skilled players that can be found on the Pittsburgh Penguins or Detroit Red Wings.

“I think he improved and was on his way to becoming a great coach,” Doan told ESPN.com.

Added Doan: “It’s hard for anybody to judge him. For anybody to say he was good or bad is tough because the personnel he was given wasn’t ...”


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