Walter Gretzky, father of NHL star Wayne Gretzky, dies at 82 – The Denver Post

TORONTO — Walter Gretzky, the father of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, has died. He was 82.

Wayne Gretzky said in a social media post Thursday night that his father battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues the past few years.

“It’s with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad,” Wayne Gretzky said. “He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down.

“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.”

Walter Gretzky became a name himself, a constant in Wayne’s world. As Wayne’s star ascended, Walter remained a blue-collar symbol of a devoted hockey parent in a country filled with them.

The two were also often intertwined, their father-son story used in commercials from Tim Hortons to Coca-Cola. And following in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, they made Brantford, Ontario, famous.

Walter was celebrated for far more than just fathering a superstar, however. His down-to-earth, no-airs approach to life and devotion to his family struck a chord with Canadians.

“Sometimes, I swear to you, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming,” Walter wrote in his 2001 autobiography “Walter Gretzky. On Family, Hockey and Healing.” “Wayne says the same thing.”

Walter’s celebrity status increased after making a remarkable recovery from a stroke suffered in 1991. His autobiography and a 2005 made-for-TV movie told the story.

Walter Gretzky was the son of immigrants — a Polish mother and Russian father — who started a vegetable farm in 1932 in Canning, Ontario, just outside Brantford, on the Nith River, where Wayne learned to skate when he was two. They bought it for $600.

Walter played minor hockey in Paris, Ontario, then junior B for four years in Woodstock. He went on to play some senior hockey, but said he wasn’t good enough to play pro.