PHOENIX (AP) – Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer, will be the new coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, The Arizona Republic reported on its Web site Sunday.

Gretzky, the team’s managing partner, is expected to be introduced as coach today, multiple NHL sources told the paper. ESPN.com confirmed the report later Sunday.

Team spokesman Rich Nairn told The Associated Press he could not confirm the story. He said the team had no events scheduled for Monday.

There had been speculation for several months that Gretzky would move from the Coyotes’ front office to their bench. But the nine-time MVP had said he would wait until a new collective bargaining agreement was in place before deciding whether to coach.

The newspaper also reported that former Detroit assistant coach Barry Smith would be one of Gretzky’s assistants.

Former Coyotes player Rick Tocchet or interim head coach Rick Bowness will be Gretzky’s other assistant, according to the reports.

Gretzky, who is the final year of a five-year contract with the club, is a longtime friend of Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett. Barnett said the day after the new NHL collective bargaining agreement was reached last month that Gretzky was very interested in the position.

Barnett, Gretzky’s former agent, said the decision would rest with the hockey great and his family, who currently live in Los Angeles.

Gretzky retired in 1999 after 20 seasons in the NHL. “The Great One” helped the Edmonton Oilers win four Stanley Cups, and is the NHL’s all-time leading goal, assist and point producer in the regular season and playoffs. Gretzky has already committed to serve as executive director for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics in Turin in February.

The Coyotes have a new $220 million arena, which they have yet to play a full season in. They moved to the Glendale Arena in December 2003, but they didn’t get opportunity to open a season there before the lockout began.

AP-ES-08-07-05 2012EDT


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