SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers, hockey world mourn death of Wayne's mom

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Wayne Gretzky's former teammates on the Oilers' staff were saddened by the news that Phyllis Gretzky had lost her battle with lung cancer.

"The hockey world, particularly here in Canada, is a pretty tight-knit community and I think everybody who follows hockey has a special place in their hearts for the Gretzkys," said Kevin Lowe, the Oilers GM and Wayne's former roommate in their early days with the club.

"I always enjoyed having a coffee with her. Once you see their parents you can see how people were raised and all the elements of their early formative years. It reflects on their own personalities, which was the case with Wayne."

"It's a disappointing moment for everybody. I know he's said now as a coach how important it is for the players to spend time with their families. From the day I met him till today, I know that family has been important to him."

Lowe did not figure that his role with the Canadian team heading to Turin would change with Gretzky's attention turned to his family.

Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy recalled that while the public saw much more of Walter Gretzky throughout the years, Phyllis was quietly in the background taking everything in.

"She kind of sat back out of the picture, but behind the scenes I'm sure she did a lot for Gretz and the whole family," said Huddy.

"She always had a good time when she came out here for the Stanley Cup parties. It's a sad day, that's for sure."

Craig Simpson learned how close the Gretzky family was when he arrived in Edmonton from Pittsburgh in 1988. He had heard the tales of the legendary backyard rink built by Walter, but then realized how important Phyllis was in Wayne's upbringing.

"Phyllis was a real strong person," said Simpson. "Walter gets talked about an awful lot, but every player in our room here knows the importance of the mother."

"It's a huge loss to not only the Gretzky family, but the hockey world," Ryan Smyth said. "Family is so important. I couldn't fathom losing a family member, especially a mother who has been such a foundation."

Sentiments also came from Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter who lost his father Louis last year.

"It's pretty near to me, too," said Sutter. "I'm glad he was able to be there."

You are invited to sign Phyllis Gretzky's Book of Condolence at ObituariesToday.com


Videos

Photos