NHL icon Wayne Gretzky on Saturday delivered a heartfelt eulogy at a funeral for his father, Walter Gretzky, who died at age 82 this week.
Walter Gretzky was active in youth hockey in Canada during Wayne's formative years, and Wayne has often credited his father for passing down his love of the game to him.
On Saturday, Wayne Gretzky choked back tears while he told stories about his father's passion for hockey, his national pride, and his love for his family.
"He came here -- his family -- as an immigrant," Gretzky said of his father, whose parents moved to Canada from Belarus. "They came here because they wanted a better life. I don't think I've ever met a prouder Canadian than my dad. And all my five children are American-born, in the United States, and I always tell them, 'You should be as proud of the United States as your grandfather is of Canada, because that's how much he loves the country.' So, I always tell my kids, 'there's nothing better in life than family.'"
The Great One revealed the sad news about his father in a social media post on Thursday.
Walter had been in declining health in recent years, his son said, battling Parkinson's disease and a host of other ailments. Coronavirus was not a factor in his death, Wayne said on Saturday.
"For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey," Gretzky's Thursday post read. "He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey but in life. We will miss him so much, but know that he's back with our mom and that brings me and my family peace. He truly was the Great one and the proudest Canadian we know."
Gretzky on Saturday was so overcome that he couldn't quite finish his emotional eulogy.
"He was a remarkable man, who loved life, loved family. We'd be a way better world if there were so many more people like my dad, very special. We're all hurting. This is such a tough time. I'm so proud of the fact that so many people have reached out and given him such great tributes, because he deserves it. He had a heart of gold --"
Walter Gretzky built the backyard rink where Wayne honed his craft as a budding young hockey talent, The Great One claimed in his 1990 autobiography, according to ESPN.