About Canadian Ice Hockey Legend Wayne Gretzky

Gretzky’s Cultural Background

Where did Wayne Gretzky first get his star on the ice?  It’s an interesting story.  

Gretzky’s paternal grandfather Anton (Tony) Gretzky immigrated to Canada via the United States from Grodno Governorate, Russian Empire, now part of Belarus,with his wife Mary of Pidhaytsi, Ukraine.  In interviews, Gretzky’s father Walter has stated that his parents were Belarusians,while on other occasions he has mentioned his family’s Polish ancestry,  and has described his father as being born in Russia with “Ukrainian forebears”. Though described as Polish and Belarusian, “the only Slavic language spoken in the family is Ukrainian“.

Tony and Mary owned a 25-acre (10 ha) vegetable farm in Canning, Ontario, while Wayne’s parents Walter and Phyllis had an apartment in Brantford where Walter worked for Bell Telephone Canada.Seven months after Wayne was born, Walter and Phyllis moved into a house. Wayne was joined by a sister, Kim (b. 1963), and brothers Keith, Glen, and Brent. The family would watch Hockey Night in Canada at Tony and Mary’s. By age two, Wayne was trying to score goals against Mary using a souvenir stick.   The farm was where Wayne ice skated for the first time, aged two years, 10 months.


Born and raised in Brantford, Gretzky honed his skills at a backyard rink and regularly played minor hockey at a level far above his peers.  Despite his unimpressive stature, strength, and speed, Gretzky’s intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled. He was adept at dodging checks from opposing players, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. Gretzky also became known for setting up behind the net, an area that was nicknamed “Gretzky’s office” because of his skills there.

He played on several teams during his career.  His longest stint with the Edmonton Oilers and ending his career on the New York Rangers team.   He is formerly a part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League (NHL).  He was also the executive director of the 2002 Canadian Olympic Men’s Hockey team which won the gold in 2002.  


In honor of Gretzky’s family’s farming roots in Canada, check out http://www.pickyourown.org/canadaon.htm