SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- A Phoenix Coyotes jersey with No. 99 hung on the podium and Wayne Gretzky, who made it the most famous number in hockey, stood before it and joked that he might practice with the team.
The only way The Great One could generate more fan frenzy would be to put on the jersey and skate into the lineup. It might also be his quickest way of helping the Coyotes past the first round of the playoffs -- their postseason exit point the last five years.
After he was introduced Friday as a managing partner in charge of hockey operations, Gretzky acknowledged he hadn't followed the team from his home in Southern California.
General manager Bobby Smith does, and that might help Smith, because Gretzky was adamant about not wanting to tend to day-to-day details.
''If I wanted to be the general manager, I would. But I don't want to,'' Gretzky said.
But developer Steve Ellman, whose hopes of buying the franchise hung in the balance while Gretzky made up his mind, left no doubt that Gretzky has authority over Smith, coach Bob Francis and the players.
''Any decision regarding hockey operations is the decision of Wayne Gretzky,'' Ellman said. ''I have no reason to believe that Bobby won't be with our organization for a long time. But that decision isn't mine, it's Wayne's.''
He declined to say what Gretzky's share of the team would be.
Ellman said team president Shawn Hunter will continue to run all business aspects of the franchise.
Gretzky joked that his mother-in-law told him everyone needs to be employed, but conceded he did not take a day-to-day job.
''I see myself as a sounding board,'' said Gretzky, the most prolific scorer in NHL history. ''Hopefully, I have some knowledge and expertise about hockey.''
He joined Ellman's ownership group on May 26, the day the developer beat a midnight deadline to make a $10 million down payment to keep the $87 million deal alive.
Ellman, who has to make a $6.5 million payment this month, with the rest due Dec. 31, said he is confident he can raise another $100 million to complete the sale and erase the team's debt months in advance of Dec. 31.
''Right now, the Coyotes have the highest debt level in the NHL, and we need to get rid of that,'' Ellman said.
Gretzky's entry into the partnership kept the Coyotes in Arizona.
Had Ellman defaulted on the down payment, owner Richard Burke probably would have sold to Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, who wants to acquire an NHL team for Portland's Rose Garden.
Gretzky, who retired from the New York Rangers last year, didn't want to return to hockey for two years, but said the deal with Ellman was too good to pass up.
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