Former Hollerado lead singer, remembers Canada’s Hockey Dad, Walter Gretzky, who passed away this month.
“The time Walter Gretzky insisted I try on Wayne’s Gloves”.
One night in October 2011, Hollerado had a show in Brantford, Ontario. As usual we had a few hours to do something after sound check and decided it was our duty as good Canadians to go give an offering in front of the house Wayne Gretzky grew up in.
We had no idea where the house was and also, we needed to know if it was an extremely annoying thing for the Gretzky family when strangers stopped by to gawk at hockey history before it happened.
Of course, next door to the sticky-floored wings and beer bar that we were playing in was a Tim Hortons, and of course Tim Hortons would be able to answer our two questions. All Tim Hortons have a table by the window where the regulars sit, so we asked those guys and they gave us directions and said for sure it was okay to stop by.
A few minutes later we were outside the house where that famous backyard rink grew the greatest hockey player of all time. We stayed on the street at a respectful distance and snapped a few fanboy pics.
Still, when a car pulled up, slowed down and a silhouette got out, we were prepared to apologize to an angry neighbour and be on our way. The silhouette got closer and all of a sudden, we realized we were standing in front of a living legend, Wayne’s father Walter Gretzky. He told us he was getting dropped off at home after his weekly Friday night meal out at McDonalds — for real, his Friday tradition for years.
A little flustered, I told him we were big fans of his and Wayne’s, and that we were a band and, in fact, earlier that summer we were one of the bands that played at Wayne’s annual charity ball hockey tournament.
“Well, you must be nice boys then,” he surmised.
Within five minutes, we were in the famous trophy room, decked out in jerseys that should all be hanging in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He told us stories about the various never-to-be-broken scoring records that were set in the gloves and sticks we were wearing as if we were putting on toques and mitts for a game of shiny in the back yard. It was surreal and perfectly Canadian, and a story we each tell with fondness to this day.
Walter Gretzky represented the humility, generosity, work-ethic and kindness that make up the fabric of so many of our communities.
With all the politics and BS that go along with nationalism, it’s easy to forget how lucky we are to live in a wonderful place where neighbours like Walter Gretzky live on every block.