Wayne Gretzky's father, Walter, dies at age 82 after battle with Parkinson's disease

By Heather Cichowski

Walter Gretzky, the father of Wayne Gretzky, has died at the age of 82.

The retired hockey player confirmed his dad's passing with an emotional statement on Twitter on March 4. Walter, who coached Wayne from an early age, died after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

"It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad,” Wayne began. “He bravely battled Parkinson's and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down.

"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."

The 60-year-old continued, “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."

"We will miss him so much, but know that he's back with our Mom and that brings me and my family peace," the statement ended.

Walter waved to fans during the final 2018 NHL regular season game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 7, 2018 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Photo: © Jeff Chevrier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club and Oilers Entertainment Group released a statement following the news of Walter's passing.

"On behalf of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club, I extend our deepest sympathies to the entire Gretzky family on the passing of Walter Gretzky," penned Edmonton Oilers Chairman Bob Nicholson.

The tribute went on, "... From his development and constant influence on one of the greatest players our game has known, to the tremendous impact he had on Canada's Olympic gold-medal-winning team in 2002, Walter was truly everyone's hockey dad.

"He will be missed by all of us, but the memories created by his tremendous character and passion for our game will remain with us forever."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed his condolences.

"Walter Gretzky cared deeply about his family and his community - his kindness was undeniable, his passion was obvious, and his impact was immense," said the Canadian P.M. "My thoughts are with Wayne and the entire Gretzky family, and all who are mourning the loss of Canada’s hockey dad."

Walter was born on Oct. 8, 1938 in Canning, Ont. to immigrants. Like his son, the Canadian showed great skill in hockey, but was deemed "too small" to play at a professional level. A bout of chickenpox also impacted his chances of trying out for the Junior A Toronto Marlies.

Walter married Phyllis Hockin in 1960 and they welcomed their first child, Wayne, on Jan. 26, 1961. They would have a total of five children, including sons Keith, Glen and Brent, and daughter Kim. The couple also had several grandchildren.

Walter and Wayne in 1994. Photo: © Dick Loek/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Walter is considered "the ultimate Canadian hockey dad" for his support of his son's career, the game and how he gave back. Wayne and Walter often collaborated to raise funds for charities on all levels, including locally, provincially and nationally. The pair set up the Wayne and Walter Gretzky Scholarship Foundation. The patriarch's altruism saw him receive the Order of Canada in December 2007.

The dad of five suffered health setbacks throughout his life. In 1961, he experienced a work-related injury while working for Bell Canada which saw him put in a coma. The incident resulted in Walter having hearing loss in his right ear. He suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm, which impacted his memory, at the age of 53. In 2012, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease after experiencing tremors in his left hand, according to CBC.

In December 2005, wife Phyllis died of lung cancer.

Our thoughts are with the Gretzky family during this time.

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