Sather's trading record is also spotty, marred by deals such as the 1997 one in which he sent future All-Star wing Miroslav Satan to the Buffalo Sabres for two players who appeared in a combined 16 NHL games following the trade. His high-profile deals in New York for Bure, Lindros and Poti have yet to impress. When Sather took the New York job, Gretzky, who retired from the Rangers in 1999, told him that the organization was in such disarray that it would take three or four years to turn it around. "Five," replied Sather.
The Rangers are a work in progress, and Sather says that even before he took over the coaching reins, he was working harder than ever. He is renowned for dropping in during the season at the homes he owns in Banff in the Canadian Rockies and Palm Springs, Calif., the latter dubbed the Western White House when he was with the Oilers. This season, however, he says he has taken time off only to attend his sister's funeral in Calgary in December and to go to Banff for two days over Christmas. Sather finds it "hilarious" in the age of satellite TV, cellphones and e-mail that his whereabouts would be an issue, as some of his detractors have said. "[Sather] is the league's most efficient guy on the telephone," says Minnesota Wild general manager Doug Rise-brough. "With Slats (Sather's nickname), I know by his voice whether I have 30 seconds, five minutes or 30 minutes of his time."
Says Gretzky, "He doesn't do anything different than he did 20 years ago. He used to give us time off and take time himself. He loves to hunt. He'd take off and go hunting for a couple of days. He has a work ethic but also has a passion for his family and for hunting and fishing. He never has put that aside."
Without Sather, Edmonton has toddled along, pinching pennies but still likely to make the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons. "A lot of people thought when Glen left, the sky would fall," says Cal Nichols, who fronts the Oilers' 38-member ownership group, with which Sather, also the team's president, occasionally clashed. "Our organization is working very well since he left. We have split the positions of G.M. [ Kevin Lowe] and president [Pat LaForge] and have a leader who works long hours at marketing and administrating, which we weren't getting before."
There are three TVs in Sather's office, an unhung painting of Gretzky by LeRoy Neiman, a humidor, pictures of the Stanley Cup and a small replica of the $5,000 sidewalk stone he bought that is embedded at the Seventh Avenue entrance to the Garden. That stone reads THERE IS NO ELEVATOR TO SUCCESS. SLATS. Even the second-smartest guy in the room knows that.
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