Sad news out of Canada ... Wayne Gretzky's father, Walter Gretzky, has died after a battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 82.
"It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad," Wayne said in a statement late Thursday evening.
"He bravely battled Parkinson's and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down."
"For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life."
The stories about Walter Gretzky's role in Wayne's career are legendary -- he served as The Great One's personal coach growing up, hammering home the fundamentals of the game.
One of his most famous lessons for Wayne focused on ANTICIPATING the action -- skate to where the puck is going, not where it's been.
Walter loved hockey -- but never played at the pro level. He played junior and senior hockey growing up in Canada but realized he wasn't good enough to make a career out of it.
His son, however ... well, we all know how that turned out.
In fact, Walter basically built a shrine to his son at the family home in Ontario -- which somebody actually burglarized back in 2020.
Family members reported roughly $500,000 worth of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from the home .. including game-used sticks, jerseys, gloves, pants and even a Player of the Year award.
But, the story had a happy ending for Walter ... after a 3-month investigation, cops recovered a bunch of the items.
Wayne concluded his tribute to his father by saying the family is at peace knowing Wayne has been reunited with his late wife, Phyllis, who passed away in 2005.
"He was truly the Great One and the proudest Canadian we know. We love you dad."