Reports that Utah Grizzlies coach Butch Goring may be flying south to join the NHL's Anaheim Mighty Ducks have proven premature.
For now, anyway.Goring, who was offered the Disney-owned franchise's head coaching position, chose not to accept a non-negotiable contract offer from the team.
He said the money - believed to be less than $350,000 annually over three years - would make him one of the lowest-paid coaches in the league, if not the lowest.
"I'm a little frustrated and I'm a little disappointed in what's happened," Goring said from his summer home in Canada. "I'd dearly love to coach the Ducks. I'm sincerely hoping they call with another offer."
The ball, er, puck is now in Anaheim's court. Goring said the two sides aren't that far apart and could resolve the matter quickly. In fact, he's hoping a deal could be reached by this weekend.
"If they call, I'll readily accept their call," Goring said. "If they don't, it's business as usual."
Translation: Another season as coach, general manager and vicepresident of hockey operations for Utah in the International Hockey League - something that does not bother Goring.
"I think that says a lot for our organization that Butch would turn down a National Hockey League opportunity to stay with the Grizzlies," Utah team president Tim Mouser said. "Unless it's the right situation, he won't go.
"And his name is still on the door at our offices," he added. "Every opportunity we can have with Butch Goring, we'll take."
In four seasons at the helm of the Grizz, Goring is 196-107-24 with two Turner Cup championships. He has labored in the minor leagues after being dismissed by the Boston Bruins in 1986 after 96 games (42-41-13) as head coach. As a player, Goring was in the NHL for 16 seasons - playing on four Stanley Cup championships teams, winning a playoffs MVP award and being named the league's premier sportsman one year.
Anaheim's low-money offer disappointed Goring, who said he's worked too hard and has too good of a resume not to be paid appropriately. The would-be coach of the Mighty Ducks said the team's offer was significantly less than what they gave Pierre Page, who was fired June 15 after one season. Anaheim still owes Page $975,000 over the next two seasons on a three-year deal worth $1.45 million.
Goring was reportedly offered $1.125 million over the same length of time. According to the Hockey News, head coaches in the NHL earned an average of $466,258 last season. The projected average entry salary for coaches next season is about $400,000.
Goring declined to reveal what his asking price is, though it's likely in the neighborhood of Page's deal. He reportedly makes between $200,000 and $250,000 annually with the Grizzlies.
Anaheim, however, has always been a bit frugal when it comes to paying coaches. Ron Wilson, the team's coach for its first four seasons, never earned more than $350,000 in a single season.
The question now is whether Mighty Ducks management will negotiate with Goring. If not, the deal is dead.
The take-it-or-leave-it offer has Goring wondering how the Mighty Ducks could walk away from their first choice for the job. He successfully interviewed with all levels of management, including Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner.
"They don't even have an idea of what I want," Goring said, while noting the parties are not millions of dollars apart.
Pierre Gauthier, who was named team president of the Mighty Ducks at a press conference Thursday morning, is aware of the situation. He was briefed on the matter by general manager Jack Ferreira.
"We did offer it to (Goring) and he did turn it down," Ferreira told reporters. "He had already rejected our proposal. I haven't heard anything back from his agent and we're moving forward."
The comment took Goring by surprise. He and agent Robin Cook were under the impression that Anaheim's initial offer was non-negotiable.
"Maybe we'll make a call and see what they're talking about," said Goring, who is still very interested in the position.
Gauthier, who will work with Ducks executive Tony Tavares and Ferreira in finding a new coach, returns to Anaheim after spending 2 1/2 seasons as general manager of the Ottawa Senators.