Beloved hockey dad Walter Gretzky dies at 82

Kyle Cantlon
·4 min read

Walter Gretzky has died at the age of 82, his family announced on Thursday.

Canada's hockey dad battled "Parkinson's and other health issues" for some time, wrote his son Wayne, the Great One, in a heartfelt Twitter post informing fans of his beloved father's passing.

"It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my Dad.

"For my sister and my 3 brothers, Dad was our team captain - he guided, protected and led our family every day, every step of the way. For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life," Gretzky's post read.

"We will miss him so much, but know that he's back with our Mom and that brings me and my family peace. He truly was the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know."

Gretzky's words surely resonated with countless Canadians and hockey fans across several generations who are mourning the loss of an absolute icon.

The father of the greatest hockey player and arguably the most dominant athlete to ever live didn't just carve his way into Canadian folklore on the heels of his hockey-savant son, he built his own legacy and impacted the game, country and community immeasurably with his kindness, generosity and zest for life and the people around him.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 07: 80 year-old father of Hockey Great Wayne Gretzky, Walter Gretzky waves to fans during the first period in the final NHL 2018 regular-season game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 7, 2018 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON., Canada. (Photo by Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Legendary hockey dad Walter Gretzky has passed away after a long battle with Parkinson's. (Getty)

Hockey world mourns Canada's hockey dad

There was an immediate outpouring of support from the hockey world and beyond as news of Walter's death spread across social media.

Tasked with the incredibly tough job of breaking such a massive story live on air, the TSN crew did a phenomenal job of capturing the moment during the Leafs-Canucks intermission.

Former NHLer — and one-time roommate of Wayne Gretzky — Dave Poulin retold a story from the 1987 Canada Cup that epitomized the larger than life presence that Walter was.

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Walter Gretzky's story a remarkable one

Walter is best known, of course, as being the man who raised Wayne Gretzky, the greatest to ever lace them up. Even casual fans probably recognize Walter way easier than they do most of the players who have skated in the league over the past few decades.

Right from the ripe age of three years old, Wayne was coached by Walter full-time. He built the backyard rinks that sent a young Great One on his path. He created drills and exercises and training programs from scratch, taught him finer points and nuances of the sport, and was in the stands for nearly every single one of his son's practices and games as a youth (and damn near almost all of them when Wayne was in the show, too).

A pillar of fatherly support — one who recognized his son's gifts and did everything he could to support Wayne's dream — is arguably the quality that will most define Walter's legacy.

Much of his fame and legend comes from being linked so closely to the Great One, of course, but Mr. Gretzky was a larger than life figure in his own right, curating a beloved brand by being himself and reaching out to his community and the people who supported him whenever he could, and then some.

Known to just let people walk in off the street to take a look at the legendary Gretzky basement shrine, Walter never shied away from a good conversation about hockey or life, or for an opportunity to make someone's day.

Walter has made vast contributions to minor hockey organizations, leagues and funds across Canada, and has consistently dedicated large portions of his time and efforts to helping raise awareness and money for various local, provincial, and national charities. Those efforts earned him the Order of Canada in 2007.

He carried the Olympic Torch during the Olympic Relay ahead of the 2021 games in Vancouver. A couple years later, he had a school named after him — the Walter Gretzky Elementary School near Brantford, Ontario.

Just a truly, truly special man. Rest In Peace, Mr. Great One.

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