June 24, 2007

Book Review: Walter Gretzky

Hockey is a game of great comebacks. Few comebacks are as inspirational as that of Walter Gretzky.

Walter Gretzky needs no introduction. He is in every way the most ordinary, most humble and most likable man. But he is also the father and teacher of the greatest hockey player of all time. Wayne Gretzky once said his immense talent was not just god given, but "Wally given."

His status as #99's mentor and father and his insightful teachings of the game combine with his amazing ordinariness make him not only a hockey legend in his own right, but the ultimate Canadian hockey dad.

Any Gretzky fan has to be curious what it was like to in the Gretzky house. Walter Gretzky's book On Family, Hockey and Healing gives us not only a glimpse at what it was like for Wayne and Walter on their rise to hockey celebrity, but also about life on the farm, life as a telephone repairman, life as a less famous member of the household and finally life as Canada's most modest celebrity.

The best part about this book is just how easy it reads. I'm a notoriously slow reader, but I zipped through this one. I likened the book's readability to that of the storytelling of an older family member whose stories you can just never get enough of. Walter Gretzky tells a variety of stories that kept me glued to book cover to cover.

And its not all stories about Wayne. In fact, there were very few stories of Wayne as a NHL superstar, which was a bit surprising and very much relieving. Instead Walter talks about staying up late to watch west coast games, silly hi-jinx he and his buddies would get into all around the globe, and of course about the inevitable run-ins with fans. This book really is about Walter, not Wayne, and I'm thankful the publishers towed that line through and through.

The book was written in cooperation with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Walter suffered a severe brain aneurysm in the early 1990s, and it truly is a miracle that he survived. The stroke wiped out many beloved memories, including most of his son's great accomplishments in the NHL.

Through Wayne, Bruce McNall and others, Walter had the best medical coverage money could buy, and Walter realizes how lucky he is compared to others. It is truly amazing what he had to go through. I had very little idea of what are strokes and the recovery processes entailed. Now I am aware, so it is definitely mission accomplished for Walter and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Walter dedicates this book and much of his time nowadays to spreading the word about strokes and his fight for recovery. It's his way of giving back, and of inspiring others.

He is an ordinary man who has lived an extraordinary life. That makes for an extraordinary story captured nicely by Random House, and was the basis for the critically acclaimed CBC docudrama Waking Up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story.

Overall Book Rating: 4/5 All Star


Donna Gilbert,  November 28, 2007 at 11:33 AM  

What nationality is Walter?

Joe Pelletier November 28, 2007 at 11:45 AM  

Walter is Canadian. The Gretzkys ancestry is Ukrainian. Interestingly, the first generation of immigrants settled in the United States before moving to Ontario.

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