During a recent Sportsnet video where Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving and his new head coach Darryl Sutter were speaking with the media, each took some time to share some everyday stories and their fondest memories about Canada’s hockey dad, Walter Gretzky. Both shared what a sad day for hockey it was because of Walter’s passing.
Treliving’s Memories of Walter Gretzky
As now Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving remembered, to him Walter Gretzky was “Canada’s hockey guy.” He was so visible in everyday life. Treliving, who at the time of his first meetings with Walter was “just” a minor-league hockey player, noted that it would “always grab me every time I saw Walter just the passion he had.”
Treliving recalled seeing Walter on the road in Phoenix, and he always had big smile on his face. He just had so much passion about watching the game of hockey.
To Treliving, one of the funniest stories he had was playing with when he was playing with Wayne’s brother Keith Gretzky in the minors – as Treliving notes, now years and years ago. Treliving and Keith played together in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Walter would drive to Erie to have coffee with Keith before each game.
During one of those coffee get togethers, Treliving remembered sneaking a sip of Walter’s coffee and hoping to himself that maybe “I can get a little bit of that magic potion that he’s got.”
Sutter’s Memories of Walter Gretzky
Darryl Sutter shared that, when he was still a player with the Chicago Blackhawks and when Wayne was a player with the Edmonton Oilers, his father met Wayne’s father. He recalls that he and Wayne were playing each other in the old colosseum in Chicago and he came out of the arena to see both his father and “Mr. Gretzky” talking with each other after the game.
He remembered that what struck him was that here were these two dads whose sons played against each other analyzing the game as hockey coaches. Even though Wayne was an Oiler and he was a Blackhawk, when “we were walking out to the bus after the game here was my dad and Mr. Gretzky – Walter – both standing there talking about the game.”
Sutter smiled remembered that he “wished I could take a picture.” To him, there was something about these two old coaches simply standing there talking about the game because, at that point, team loyalties didn’t matter. It was two dads, and two coaches, analyzing the good-old hockey game. To Sutter, it is “was the coolest thing.”
Walter Gretzky Was a Class Act
As I’ve read stories about Walter Gretzky since his passing, one of the things that seems most clear is that he was a class act. He treated everyone as if they were somebody. He went out of his way to engage people, to ask how they were doing, and to talk about the game he loved, which was hockey.
In the case of his son Wayne, who is arguably the best player in the history of the NHL, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The way that Wayne treats and speaks about others is special.
Walter Gretzky – and hockey dads/guys all over Canada just like him – are what make this great game so special. You will be missed.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf