Walter Gretzky mourned in Ontario city he helped put on the map

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BRANTFORD, Ont. — A small memorial has sprung up for Walter Gretzky outside the arena that bears his son's name in Brantford, Ont.

The elder Gretzky died Thursday at the age of 82.

Two hockey sticks — one full-sized, one miniature — and a Canadian flag adorn the sign marking off Walter Gretzky's parking spot outside the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.

"Reserved for Walter Gretzky, Lord Mayor of Brantford," the sign reads.

Mark Ritter, a former sports journalist who left the full-sized hockey stick leaning up against the sign, says the famous hockey dad was a community fixture.

He says he lived in Brantford for six years but has since moved away, and drove about an hour to pay tribute to Gretzky Friday morning.

He says he regularly saw Gretzky at the nearby McDonald's when he lived in the southern Ontario city of about 100,000.

"He was always really kind," Ritter said. "He was always shaking hands. He was always making eye contact with people."

"I think his greatest gift really was time," Ritter said. "...He gave it up unselfishly and with kindness and love and care."

Others laid flowers at the foot of the Gretzky statue outside the sports centre.

The monument depicts Walter Gretzky and his wife Phyllis with a young Wayne, looking on as the adult Wayne Gretzky hoists the Stanley Cup over his head.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press