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Hockey Canada looks to grow relationship with Wayne Gretzky

In this Sept. 20, 2005, file photo, Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky watches play during an NHL hockey preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings in Glendale, Ariz. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Paul Connors, File

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In this Sept. 20, 2005, file photo, Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky watches play during an NHL hockey preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings in Glendale, Ariz. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Paul Connors, File

A loss for the Phoenix Coyotes could become a gain for Hockey Canada.

Now that Wayne Gretzky has stepped away from the Coyotes, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson is hoping the Great One might be available to take on even more of a role with his organization.

"I certainly hope (his) relationship with Hockey Canada will grow," Nicholson said Friday.

Gretzky assembled the last two Canadian Olympic teams and has served as general manager at the IIHF World Hockey Championships, among other roles.

While Nicholson didn't elaborate on how Gretzky might be asked to contribute moving forward, he did hint that it could be in a different way than before.

"I've got lots of ideas and I'm sure he knows I do," said Nicholson. "I'd be really surprised if we don't continue to have the great relationship that we've had over the years.

"It will be in a different manner than we have, but I think it could be stronger - stronger than ever before."

One thing that isn't likely to change is Gretzky's role with the team for the Vancouver Olympics. He remains an advisor to Steve Yzerman and his management staff - available to provide insight on player selection and share his experiences from the past two Games.

Even though Gretzky should have more free time in the coming months, he'll remain in the background.

"This is Steve Yzerman's team," said Nicholson. "Steve will reach out to (Wayne) when he's needed."

Gretzky stepped down as the Coyotes coach and director of hockey operations on Thursday.

That came after the Great One had his position with the team debated repeatedly during the team's drawn-out bankruptcy proceedings. Even though Nicholson's communication with Gretzky has been limited to emails, he feels bad for his long-time friend.

"He was in a situation that no one would want to be in," said Nicholson. "He always amazes me how he handles things. He really does.

"There's only one Wayne Gretzky in our game and he certainly rises above any negative stuff."

Gretzky has been a big supporter of Hockey Canada throughout the years. He's maintained an open line of communication throughout the years.

"People probably don't realize how much Wayne helps myself and Hockey Canada on an ongoing basis," said Nicholson. "Everyone sees it around an Olympics or a world championship, but he's always there to help us on development stuff and always (gives) great insight to us."

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