Walter Gretzky, the father of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, has died at age 82.
Wayne Gretzky announced the news on Twitter on Thursday, saying his father “bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues over 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,” Wayne Gretzky wrote. “He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey but in life. 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.”
Walter’s wife, Phyllis, died of lung cancer in 2005.
Walter was born in Ontario to Belarusian immigrants. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2007 “for his contributions to minor hockey in Canada and for his dedication to helping a myriad of local, provincial and national charities.”
He taught his son how to play hockey on a rink he built in their backyard.
In his 1990 autobiography, Wayne Gretzky described how his father often worked shooting drills with him to refine his sense of anticipation.
“People are always telling me, ‘You must have eyes in the back of your head,'” he wrote in the book. “Baloney. I’ve just learned to guess what’s going to happen next. It’s anticipation. It’s not God-given, it’s Wally-given”