“For me he was the reason why I fell in love with the hockey game,” wrote Gretzky about his father. “He inspired me to be the best that I could not just be in a hockey game, but in life.”
Walter Gretzky became a name herself, a constant in Wayne’s world starting in her hometown of Brantford, Ontario. As Wayne’s star rose, Walter remained a working-class symbol of a devoted hockey parent in a land filled with them.
The two were also often intertwined, their father-son story being used in commercials from Tim Horton’s restaurants to Coca-Cola. Mr. Gretzky’s celebrity status rose after a remarkable recovery from a stroke in 1991. His story was told in a 2001 autobiography and a 2005 television movie.
His immigrant parents – a Polish mother and a Russian father – founded a vegetable farm on the Nith River in Canning, Ontario, in 1932, where Wayne learned to skate when he was two.
Walter Gretzky was born in Canning on October 8, 1938 and played hockey during his youth and youth, but did not play professionally.
He and his wife Phyllis Hockin were married in 1960. She died in 2005.
Wayne Gretzky was the oldest of their five children.
In 1961, the same year Wayne was born, Walter Gretzky broke his skull in an accident at work as a Bell Lineman. He spent some time in a coma, lost hearing in his left ear, and was unemployed for 18 months. He eventually moved to another Bell department and became a plumber / mechanic.
When Wayne was 4 years old, Mr. Gretzky turned the back yard of their Brantford home into an ice rink. He recruited older kids for Wayne to practice and found him on a team of 10 year olds when he was 6.
“They knew that at his age he was good at what he was doing,” said Mr. Gretzky in 2016. “But to say that one day he would do what he did, you couldn’t say that. Nobody could. “
Wayne recalled crying after his first year in hockey when he didn’t receive a trophy at the end of the season.
“Wayne, keep practicing and one day you will have so many trophies that we won’t have room for them all,” said his father.
Walter drove one old blue Chevy station wagon after another, calling everyone the Blue Goose. After winning the National Hockey League, Wayne bought his parents a blue Cadillac for their 25th wedding anniversary.
Walter Gretzky was a sought-after banquet speaker and a national spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2007.
In 2010 Walter Gretzky carried the Olympic torch before the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games in Vancouver, where Wayne lit the Olympic flame.
Mr Gretzky was 53 years old when he suffered his stroke, just a few months after retiring after 34 years with Bell. He was slowly recovering from his lost memory. He later worked with youth hockey groups and became an avid golfer.
Besides his children, survivors are numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.