The hockey world lost one of its shining lights when Walter Gretzky – proud dad of NHL superstar Wayne – passed away on March 4 at age 82. A former hockey player in his youth, the Gretzky patriarch was known for his devotion to his five kids and the entire community in Brantford, Ont.
We revisit the 2017 pilgrimage HGTV Canada designer Tommy Smythe took to check out the modest Gretzky abode as part of Great Canadian Homes – the same place where Canada’s Hockey Dad created a backyard rink and a basement shrine devoted to Wayne’s many amateur and professional achievements. Sacred ground, in Canada.
The quaint white side-split was part of the original 1950s housing development in the area. As Walter walked Tommy through the upper level and out onto the back porch, he said, “I consider it sacred” as he looked over the swimming pool he would freeze over with ice every winter.
“Wayne would play hours at a time,” Walter told Tommy. “Sometimes I’d forget about him out here and he’d be out here until midnight.”
Watch Tommy Smythe’s interview and home tour with Walter Gretzky
While the home’s carpeted upper level gives off warm and cozy vibes – lots of quilts, knick-knacks and family heirlooms – it’s the basement that makes it one of the most notable and iconic homes in the entire country. The 360° image below is testament to that fact.
It’s a museum, a shrine – but one that Walter would allow guests (fans, members of the Brantford community, etc.) to interact with it. There was no such thing as a “hands off” rule in the Gretzky home. Memorabilia included signed magazines, framed photos, cardboard cutouts, trophies and game-worn jerseys and gloves.
In short: it’s a hockey fan’s dream, making Tommy the perfect person to take in its full effect (fun fact: he just so happens to be the great-grandson of Conn Smythe, longtime owner, general manager and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs). That’s a lot of hockey history in one room!
What’s truly remarkable about the space is that it’s only “some” of the many medals and trophies Wayne won over the years. “Now when you hear me say I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes, you can understand what I’m saying,” Walter tells Tommy. “Can you imagine all these experiences?”
As Walter slowly walked Tommy through the entirety of the basement, pointing out framed photos and miniature Stanley Cups, the HGTV Canada designer said what we were all thinking: “Behind every superstar is a superstar dad.” Based on the amount of fans who lined the street to tap their sticks in Walter’s honour as his family wound through the streets of Brantford for his funeral, it’s safe to say he’s cemented himself in history as one of Canada’s greatest dads.
Feature photo of Walter and Wayne Gretzky courtesy of Getty Images.