Heading into the second intermission, the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks became secondary after news broke of Walter Gretzky’s death.
There weren’t many people who leave a legacy as Gretzky did considering the unique mark he had on the game. Not only was he the father of Wayne Gretzky but Walter provided inspiration to countless people whether through charitable work or coaching youth hockey.
"“It’s with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my Dad,” Wayne Gretzky’s account wrote in a statement. “He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues 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. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life.”"
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As the father of the greatest hockey player to ever play the game, Gretzky was a central figure of many Leafs games. There weren’t many games the Brantford, Ont., native didn’t attend and he was always given a great ovation when shown on the jumbotron.
It truly means something significant when “The Great One” continually made it known that the influence his father had was crucial to his hockey journey. Considering the sacrifices he made to ensure his children could play on the backyard rink, Walter was the idol every hockey parent followed and should continue to follow.
Who knows where the game of hockey would be today without Walter’s dedication to making the rink in the backyard. He was rightfully named to the Order of Canada in 2007 and handled the Olympic Torch to Wayne at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Memories like that will ensure that Walter Gretzky’s legacy continues to live on as the hockey community mourns a tragic loss of Canada’s Hockey Dad.
Toronto Maple Leafs joins hockey world in honouring Walter Gretzky
There were a lot of people sharing stories about Mr. Gretzky who made sure that no one was missed at an autograph session. His passing certainly hits everyone differently because of the way he connected with people on different levels.
Both Auston Matthews and John Tavares made it a point to give their condolences before taking questions after their loss to the Canucks. Considering how little time they had to digest the news, you have to give them credit, especially Tavares.
For many who grew up playing hockey, Walter was a figure that many looked up to considering he was a hard worker that didn’t let his fame change his approach to life.
It’s been a tough season off the ice for the Leafs with George Armstrong’s passing marking the departure of the team’s greatest leader. You can be sure there will be a tribute for Walter when the team returns for their next game in Toronto.
As for the game itself, the Leafs certainly looked like a team playing on back-to-back nights and ran into a hot goalie in Thatcher Demko. They’ll look to bounce back on Saturday night.
What memories do you have of Walter Gretzky? How will you remember him? Let us know in the comments below.