Walter Gretzky, the father of NHL legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, died on Thursday at 82.
The news was announced on Twitter by Wayne on behalf of the entire Gretzky family late Thursday night.
Wrote Gretzky in part: “He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues these last few years but he never let it get him down … He was truly the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know. We love you Dad.”
Gretzky also added that his father is the reason he fell in love with the game of hockey and that he inspired him to be the best he could be in hockey and in life.
— Wayne Gretzky (@WayneGretzky) March 5, 2021
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement Friday morning:
“Although he never skated a shift in the National Hockey League, Walter Gretzky’s influence on our League and our game was profound. He embodied all that is great about being a hockey parent. Teaching the game to his children on the famed backyard rink he built in his beloved hometown of Brantford, Ontario, Walter instilled in them not only an uncommon understanding of hockey’s essence, but a love and respect for the game that has become synonymous with the name Gretzky, all while ensuring that the game was fun to play.
“Walter reveled in the incomparable exploits of his son Wayne, who never failed to credit his father as his first and most important coach. And Players, Coaches and media members routinely sought Walter’s insight throughout Wayne’s legendary career. A gentle man and a gentleman, Walter was unfailingly happy to share a story or thought.
“Walter’s passion for the game and for teaching it to young players transcended place, status and skill level. During the two decades since Wayne retired, Walter could always be found at a rink, sharing the game with players and fans at all levels. Quietly and humbly, Walter dedicated so much of his time to countless charities with little fanfare but with a deep commitment to improving the lives of so many – particularly children.
“We all will miss Walter and his infectious smile. On behalf of the entire National Hockey League, I extend my deepest sympathies to Wayne and the entire Gretzky family.”
The elder Gretzky coached at various levels hockey and published multiple books on the game. In 2007, he was named to the Order Of Canada for his contributions to the sport.