Walter Gretzky Remembered for Devotion to the Game and its Fans

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The hockey world is reacting to news of the death of Canada's hockey dad.

Wayne Gretzky announced on Twitter Thursday that his father Walter had died at the age of 82.

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky became Walter's niece through marriage and got to know him over the years.

She says one her fondest memories was his visit to Queens Park.

"After I got elected he walked around the room and told everybody that I was his niece and how special it was that I was an MPP and how proud he was of that," she says. "That will be one of the memories I'll hold on to."

The New Democrat says the most recognized hockey dad in the world always stayed humble.

"He really didn't just talk, he listened to other people and took that to heart to try and make change and make their lives better," she says.
     
Bill Bowler, General Manager of the Windsor Spitfires and former OHL star, spoke with The Afternoon News.

He says Walter always had time to chat with anyone about anything.

"He's someone you really want to ask a question or say hello to and the fact that he was so welcoming and open; it's just an amazing trait that Walter had," he added.

He got to know Walter around the OHL and during his time in the pros, but he'll always remember running into him at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford.

Bowler was there coaching in a minor hockey tournament and Walter signed autographs and talked to fans until the last person in line left.

"The game was great to Wayne and his family, so I guess Walter felt it was necessary that if someone needed his time he gave back and never let anyone down," says Bowler.

Gretzky wrote that his father bravely battled Parkinson's and other health issues over the past few years, but never let it get him down.

He says his father was the reason he fell in love with the game of hockey and that Walter inspired him to be the best he could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life.

— with files from AM800's Patty Handysides.