A Canadian Salute to Walter Gretzky

On March 5th, Wayne Gretzky announced the passing of his father, beloved hockey dad Walter Gretzky, via Twitter. He had been battling health issues for several years, including Parkinson’s disease and a previous brain aneurysm.

Walter Gretzky’s funeral was held on March 6th, and over 200 people lined the streets of Memorial Drive in Brantford to tap their hockey sticks on the ground as the hearse drove past, as a tribute to the man nicknamed “Canada’s Hockey Dad”. Many of them wore jerseys sporting ‘99’ on the back, Gretzky’s famous number. Some fans also commemorated Walter Gretzky by visiting the statue of the family outside the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, and placing flowers, hockey sticks, and messages in the snow nearby, including “RIP Wally, the original Great One”.

So, why did the passing Walter Gretzky resonate so deeply with so many Canadians? It’s no secret that hockey is a big part of Canadian society, particularly for males. This is because hegemonic masculinity is prevalent in our society, meaning “male” values are seen as dominant and favourable. Hockey represents many of these values, allowing men to be aggressive and strong, but also hard-working and disciplined. Because of this, we see people involved in this sport as true Canadians. Walter Gretzky embodies many of these values, described as “humble and self-effacing” and “blue-collar to the core”. Wayne Gretzky himself, when recounting his father in his eulogy, said “I don’t think I’ve ever met a prouder Canadian than my dad. He has the heart of gold”.  


Featured image: Wayne Gretzky and his father Walter Gretzky in 1984 (Source: Bruce Bennett – Getty Images)

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