Wayne Gretzky celebrates his 49th birthday Tuesday.
His father, Walter, the country’s most famous hockey dad, will be in the area this weekend spending time where Wayne learned to put it all together — on the pond.
Walter Gretzky will serve as honorary coach at the fifth annual Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships, which open Friday in Huntsville.
The country’s largest pond hockey tournament, held on Sunset Bay at Deerhurst Resort, will feature more than 1,700 players playing 750 games over the next two weekends.
It’s a different atmosphere than the Gretzky backyard rink in Brantford more than 40 years ago, but the allure of playing outdoors remains the same.
"There's something special about playing on the pond — it takes you back to simpler times,” Walter Gretzky stated in a media release. ”There’s a purity in playing outdoors in the elements and it’s a place of dreams."
Throughout this weekend’s open championships and the Feb. 5-7 master’s championships, proceeds from a sports memorabilia auction will be directed to the Walter & Wayne Gretzky CNIB Blind Youth Scholarship Program, which has provided scholarships for more than 400 blind students over the past 25 years.
“Walter Gretzky's rink is immortalized in sports history, and we're thrilled to host him here on our rink,” said tournament executive director Neil Lumsden. “His involvement is a dream come true for us. Walter has been an international ambassador to the game of hockey for many years."