TORONTO — Walter Gretzky, the daddy of hockey nice Wayne Gretzky, has died. He was 82.
Wayne Gretzky stated in a social media submit Thursday night time that his father battled Parkinson’s illness and different well being points the previous few years.
“It’s with deep disappointment that Janet and I share the information of the passing of my dad,” Wayne Gretzky stated. “He bravely battled Parkinson’s and different well being points these previous couple of years, however he by no means let it get him down.
“For me, he was the explanation I fell in love with the sport of hockey. He impressed me to be the perfect I may very well be not simply within the sport of hockey, however in life.”
Walter Gretzky turned a reputation himself, a relentless in Wayne’s world. As Wayne’s star ascended, Walter remained a blue-collar image of a loyal hockey mum or dad in a rustic full of them.
The 2 have been additionally usually intertwined, their father-son story utilized in commercials from Tim Hortons to Coca-Cola. And following within the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, they made Brantford, Ontario, well-known.
Walter was celebrated for way over simply fathering a celebrity, nevertheless. His down-to-earth, no-airs lifestyle and devotion to his household struck a chord with Canadians.
“Typically, I swear to you, I’ve to pinch myself to verify I’m not dreaming,” Walter wrote in his 2001 autobiography “Walter Gretzky. On Household, Hockey and Therapeutic.” “Wayne says the identical factor.”
Walter’s celeb standing elevated after making a outstanding restoration from a stroke suffered in 1991. His autobiography and a 2005 made-for-TV film advised the story.
Walter Gretzky was the son of immigrants — a Polish mom and Russian father — who began a vegetable farm in 1932 in Canning, Ontario, simply outdoors Brantford, on the Nith River, the place Wayne realized to skate when he was two. They purchased it for $600.
Walter performed minor hockey in Paris, Ontario, then junior B for 4 years in Woodstock. He went on to play some senior hockey, however stated he wasn’t adequate to play professional.
Walter met Phyllis, his spouse to be, at a wiener roast on the household farm. She was 15 on the time. Three years later, they received married. Phyllis died of lung most cancers in 2005.
Wayne was the primary born in 1961, adopted by Kim, Keith, Glen and Brent. Keith and Brent additionally performed skilled hockey.
The identical yr as Wayne was born, Walter fractured his cranium in a piece accident as a Bell lineman. He spent a while in a coma and was off work for 18 months. Left deaf in his proper ear, he was ultimately transferred to a different Bell division and have become an installer/repairman.
The winter when Wayne was 4, his father turned the yard of their Brantford dwelling right into a rink that younger Wayne known as The Wally Coliseum.
Walter determined to make his personal rink to keep away from having to freeze standing open air at some outside rink elsewhere — or sit in his automobile with the engine operating to get some warmth — whereas Wayne skated. Gasoline was too costly, he stated.
“It actually, actually was self-preservation,” he defined.
Walter fed his eldest little one’s obsession, recruiting greater youngsters for Wayne to apply towards within the yard rink, and discovering him a spot on a group of 10-year-olds when he was six.
“You knew he was good at his age at what he was doing,” Walter stated in a 2016 interview. “However to say that sooner or later he’d do what he did, you couldn’t say that. No one may.”
Wayne recalled crying after that first yr of organized hockey when he didn’t get a trophy on the year-end banquet.
“Wayne, preserve working towards and sooner or later you’re going have so many trophies we’re not going to have room for all of them,” his dad stated.
Walter drove one outdated blue Chevy station wagon after one other — calling every the Blue Goose. He known as it a “dependable automobile for a household of seven.”
Wayne purchased his father a blue Cadillac for his mother and father’ 25th wedding ceremony anniversary.
Walter was a a lot sought-after speaker by teams organizing sports activities awards dinners, and he labored tirelessly as nationwide spokesman for the Coronary heart and Stroke Basis of Canada. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2007.
In 2010, Walter carried the Olympic torch on the final day of the Olympic relay within the leadup to the opening ceremonies in Vancouver, the place Wayne lit the Olympic flame.
He was 53 when he suffered his stroke, only a few months into retirement after 34 years at Bell. He wasn’t anticipated to stay by the night time. However he did, and it modified his life.
He misplaced a lot of his reminiscence and it took time to get snippets of it again.
“These have been darkish instances,” he wrote concerning the early days after the stroke, “and I wouldn’t need to return there for something on the planet. It’s an terrible factor to not know who or the place you’re, to really feel confused and hopeless and never know whether or not you’re ever going to have the ability to do all of the issues your used to to.”
Hockey helped his restoration as he began working with youngsters within the Brantford Minor Hockey Affiliation. The four- and five-year-olds used to name him Wally.
In his remaining years, he was extra outgoing and carefree. After one sport when his minor hockey group was downcast, he invited everybody to his dwelling to see Wayne’s memorabilia. There have been 61 of them. He additionally turned an avid golfer.
He’d been a hyper chain-smoker earlier than the stroke. He gave that up, whereas devoting extra of his time to worthwhile causes.
’“I actually don’t like to sit down nonetheless for too lengthy,” he stated. “I’m most snug after I’m lively.”
Walter is also survived by quite a few grandchildren and great-grandchildren.