Gretzky set to take Centennial spotlight

TORONTO — Wayne Gretzky emerged from the sidelines back into the hockey spotlight on Tuesday when he was introduced as the official ambassador to the NHL’s Centennial Celebration.

Gretzky has largely remained in the hockey shadows in recent years and played no official role in the NHL since 2009, when he was a minority owner, coach and head of hockey operations with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Great One’s relationship with the NHL was left strained when the league purchased the team out of bankruptcy and squabbled with Gretzky over compensation.

The NHL’s all-time leading scorer, Gretzky will be front and centre as the NHL celebrates its 100th anniversary with a number of events starting with the Centennial Classic, an outdoor game that will be staged in Toronto on Jan. 1 between the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.

“I’ve always said this thousands of times: it’s the greatest game in the world,” said Gretzky, speaking to reporters ahead of Game One of the best-of-three World Cup final between Canada and Team Europe.”

Florida hires Stricklin as athletic director

Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin was named the new athletic director at Florida, the school announced Tuesday.

Stricklin replaces Jeremy Foley, who announced in June that he would be leaving as the Gators athletic director in October.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity at Florida,” Stricklin said in a statement. “I’m an SEC guy. I understand the position Florida holds in college athletics. I’m excited to come and be part of the department. It’s a great staff here to work with. I love college towns. The opportunity to come and get invested in another community, with my family, you start balancing all that and you understand at this point in my career, this is an opportunity you just can’t not do.”

Stricklin, 46, graduated from Mississippi State and was the Bulldogs athletic director since 2010.

Foot injury sidelines Kings’ Gaborik

The Los Angeles Kings find themselves short-handed long before the puck officially drops on the NHL season.

Veteran forward Marian Gaborik sustained a right foot injury on Sunday while playing for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey. The 34-year-old will be not only miss Tuesday’s opener of the best-of-three final against Team Canada but a significantly greater amount of time.

“Bad — eight weeks,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said of Gaborik’s expected absence in an email to the Los Angeles Times.

Gaborik scored his second goal of the tournament early in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime victory over Team Sweden. He was on the receiving end of a slap shot later in the contest, but managed to complete the game.

Panthers sign safety Griffin

The Carolina Panthers signed two-time Pro Bowl safety Michael Griffin to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

Carolina also signed defensive tackle Kyle Love, who was a member of the team the past two seasons.

The Panthers created the roster space by releasing safety Marcus Ball and placing defensive end Ryan Delaire (knee) on injured reserve.

Griffin spent nine seasons with the Tennessee Titans before being released in the offseason. He later signed with the Minnesota Vikings but was placed on injured reserve due to a back injury before recently receiving his release via an injury settlement.

Griffin, 31, was a Pro Bowl selection with the Titans in 2008 and 2010. He has 25 interceptions in 141 career regular-season games (133 starts).

Love was among Carolina’s final cuts earlier this month. He had 19 tackles and three sacks last season.