Walter Gretzky, the beloved father of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, has died at the age of 82, per an announcement shared by the family on Thursday night. Wayne took to social media last night revealing the news alongside a heartfelt note and photo of his late dad, who battled Parkinson's disease and a slew of other health issues over the years.
"It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my Dad," NHL icon, Wayne wrote on Twitter. "For my sister and my 3 brothers, Dad was our team captain — he guided, protected and led our family every day, every step of the way. 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."
He went on to write how he will miss his father "so much," but knows he is back with his mom. "That brings me and my family peace," he wrote. "He truly was the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know."
Arguably one of the best athletes of our generation in both Canada and the U.S., Wayne's success could never have been built without the help of his father and the Gretzky patriarch, Walter Gretzky who helped carve his way into one of Canada's greatest. Impacting the game of hockey as a beloved "hockey dad" constantly on the sidelines, the loss of Gretzky was felt by many on social media who took to the comments section to express their condolences.
"So damn sorry," wrote former basketball player, Rex Chapman alongside a slew of broken heart emojis. Hockey writer, Bob Duff shared a heartfelt story about Gretzky with fans on Twitter following the induction of 50 of the greatest players at the Hall of Fame in 1996. "Walter came and asked if he could sit next to me while you were on stage being introduced as [the] #1 player. Then he asked if I'd do him a favor. It was not long after he'd suffered his aneurysm," Duff wrote in the tweet thread. "When someone came over, Walter asked, would I whisper who they were because he didn't remember everyone and didn't want them to feel bad because he'd forgotten their name. He'd suffered the aneurysm, but he was worried about hurting their feelings. What a wonderful man."
He went on to share another memory of Gretzky, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 1992 and a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in 2012. The hockey legend's patriarch faced many difficulties concerning his memory in the years following, but it was seen as a positive in some ways. "Walter also told me that day that part of his memory loss was most of your playing career. When I suggested that was sad, he disagreed. He saw it as a positive. 'Now I get to live it twice,' he explained [to] me," he wrote.
Of the medical ailments his father experienced, the diagnoses "hit you right in the gut" as Wayne said at a conference years ago per the CBC. "Something like that happens, there's really no cure or answer. No amount of money can solve that kind of problem." Walter Gretzky is survived by his five children: Wayne, Kim, Keith, Glen and Brent, as well as a number of grandchildren.