Great One will employ replacements, not coach them

Wayne Gretzky is interested in coaching the Phoenix Coyotes -- but not if the NHL uses replacement players in 2005-06.

"My gut feeling is to say 'No,'" Gretzky told The Arizona Republic when asked if he'd make his NHL coaching debut if the league resorted to using replacements. "Hopefully that doesn't happen and we'll get the best players back by September."

The NHL and players' association have yet to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. With the league firm on starting the 2005-06 season on time, the use of replacement players is a possibility.

Gretzky said the team would reluctantly agree if the league decides to use replacements.

"As an organization, we don't like the idea," Gretzky told the newspaper. "Those 700 guys are in the NHL for a reason. To go get replacement players is not the right thing to do. But we're just one of 30 teams, and if the league says that's what it's going to do we can't not go along with it."

Gretzky, five-year deal with the Coyotes expires in February, denied reports that he'd leave the Coyotes to take over any other team, including the New York Rangers. Extending his present deal with the Coyotes is "a formality," he added.