Gretzky Denied Access To Coyotes

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Wayne Gretzky, the soon-to-be part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, wasn't allowed in the team's locker room by outgoing owner Richard Burke and General Manager Bobby Smith following the Coyotes' 1-0 loss in their preseason opener to the Los Angeles Kings.

Gretzky will be in charge of all hockey-related matters for the team once he and partner Steve Ellman complete their purchase of the Coyotes.

"I respect their decision not to let us be around the team, but I'm a little disappointed," Gretzky said. "We've put money into this project. I've put my own money into this project. And more important, people are asking why I'm not around the team."

"They're trying to pull stuff on me," Burke told The Arizona Republic when pressed for an explanation.

"They just need to get on and about, get their deal done, and quit looking for photo ops and being disruptive," he said. "If they get their deal done, they can do whatever they want. Until then, the answer is no."

Apparently Burke and Smith weren't happy that Gretzky recently had been talking with unsigned goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, a restricted free agent, and agent Jay Grossman at a time when contract talks had been stalled for weeks.

"It's important Nik is on this team, and we're going to have Nik on this team," Gretzky said about Khabibulin. "Nik is more important to the team and this city than Richard Burke and/or Bobby Smith."

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