Walter Gretzky Seals the Deal for Lung Health

Walter Gretzky with young fan Ayden Glazier. Photo credit: Julie Matus

There are many ways that Walter Gretzky is a fitting spokesperson for the Lung Association of Ontario and the ideal Ambassador for the Christmas Seals. The most powerful being that Phyllis Gretzky, his wife of 45 years passed away from lung cancer in 2005.

The fact that he was once a smoker, also informs his public appearances and his advocacy for Canada’s oldest charity.

Recently, while hosting a Christmas Seals luncheon at Gretzky’s Restaurant in Toronto, he explained how attitudes towards smoking have luckily changed in his lifetime and that his own mother encouraged him to start when he was eighteen.

“If you didn’t smoke then, you weren’t a man,” Gretzky says.

The number one reason Walter Gretzky is a wonderful champion for this cause however, would have to be his status as the most recognizable hockey dad in the world.

Though he himself never played professionally, he did play Junior B and entertained the young hockey enthusiasts at the luncheon with tales of his youth.

“I played on the river and fell through the ice a few time,” Gretzky said. “Some kids now have sticks that cost over a $100. My first hockey stick was a tree branch.”

The young crowd, many of whom have severe asthma, were excited to meet Gretzky. They heard about the Gretzky holiday traditions, sampled perogies and got their jerseys signed.

Gretzky also signed copies of the Christmas Seal poster, in which he appears with Mackenly Grant, a five-year boy who was diagnosed with asthma at six months old.

The original Christmas Seals campaign was created over 100 years ago to help eradicate tuberculosis. The funds goes towards research in preventing and treating lung diseases such as asthma, COPD and lung cancer.

To find your local Lung Association, click here.

-Athena McKenzie