Walter Gretzky, father of The Great One, is an ordinary man who, from humble beginnings and against the odds of a devastating illness, has led, and is leading, an extraordinary life. To many people, Walter Gretzky is the ultimate dad, and the first inspired coach to a talented young boy. Walter’s major insight into hockey—that a player should “go where the puck is going”- guided Wayne’s brilliant style.
It’s safe to say that no other famous hockey player’s father is held in such high esteem, and Walter Gretzky has carved out this singular niche in his own right. Gretzky grew up on a small family farm, married Phyllis, and raised four boys and a girl in a modest home. He worked for Bell Canada for 34 years. A movie about his life Waking Up Walter: The Walter Gretzky Story – based on his best-selling book, On Family, Hockey and Healing made its premier on CBC-TV in 2005. About the movie, Walter Gretzky said, “I’m stunned. My name’s Walter Gretzky, not Wayne Gretzky.”
About fifteen years ago, Walter made a miraculous recovery from a stroke that came close to killing him. Through his own grit and determination, and with the help of dedicated therapists, doctors, family and friends, he battled back from an aneurysm that left him with many cognitive difficulties and destroyed a decade of memories—including his recollection of the death of his mother and almost all of Wayne’s NHL triumphs of the eighties. Mr. Gretzky is now the official spokesperson for Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation. He also is currently very active in a number of charities, whether it’s the weekly load of broken sticks he gathers from Brantford area arenas for CNIB furniture-making or providing some piece of memorabilia for a fund-raiser…Walter gets it done. In 2002, Gretzky was given an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree from McMaster University. Gretzky’s unique blend of humour, inspiration and hard-won wisdom elevates audiences to reach new levels of achievement by turning adversity into opportunity.