Walter Gretzky, father of ice hockey great Wayne, dies at 82

FILE PHOTO: Walter Gretzky watches the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees MLB American League baseball game in Toronto

(Reuters) – Walter Gretzky, who recognized his son Wayne’s prodigious talent and helped shape him into the National Hockey League’s all-time leading scorer, has died aged 82.

His death was confirmed on Twitter by Wayne, who said his dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues over the last few years.

“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,” 60-year-old Wayne wrote on Twitter.

“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.”

Widely recognised as Canada’s most famous hockey dad, Walter produced the famous backyard rink on which Wayne learned to skate as a two-year-old and later honed his skills.

Wayne, who went on to rewrite the NHL record book during a Hall of Fame career in which he won four Stanley Cups, has often credited his father with pioneering drills and coaching techniques that would shape his playing style.

In 2007, Walter was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour, for his contributions to minor hockey and dedication to helping countless charities.

He was born in Canning, Ontario, on Oct. 8, 1938, the son of Tony and Mary, and grew up on a vegetable farm with his six siblings. He was involved in athletics and hockey in his youth.

In 2010, Walter carried the torch on the last day of the Olympic relay ahead of the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Games where Wayne lit the Olympic flame.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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