Words of wisdom

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Walter Gretzky knows firsthand what it's like to be around "those" kind of hockey parents.

You know, "those" ones.

The First Father of Canadian hockey was helping coach a travelling team of 10-year-olds near his Brantford, Ont., home a few years ago when a mother approached him after a practice.

The conversation went something like this:

"Walter, how did you do it?" Hockey Mom shrieked, only inches from Gretzky's face.

"What?" Gretzky asked back.

"How did you do it?" Hockey Mom asked again.

"What?" Gretzky asked again, perplexed.

"How did you wait for Wayne to get to the NHL?" Hockey Mom exclaimed. "I can't wait for my son to get there!"

Gretzky relayed this story yesterday at River Heights Community Centre, where he handed out post-game awards and dropped the ceremonial first puck for Kelvin High School's boys' and girls' hockey games.

Gretzky finished his story about Hockey Mom by giving an update on her son; he quit hockey by the time he was 14.

"I know why he quit," Gretzky said yesterday. "He didn't want to disappoint his mom or dad. So rather than disappoint them, he quit. He doesn't even play. I'll always remember that."

Gretzky said Hockey Canada's campaign to silence verbally abusive parents is working, but he added that the problem will never go away entirely. After all, Gretzky himself used to be one of those parents.

The biggest problem today, he said, is parents who have those unrealistic expectations for their children.

"More parents think their son is going to be a millionaire when he's 17 years old and in the NHL than ever before," he said. "Never before did I encounter more people who truly, truly ... they don't hope their son gets to be in the NHL, they expect him -- expect him! -- to be there."

If the 68-year-old had the opportunity, he would take every Canadian hockey parent on his annual excursion to children's hospitals in southern Ontario.

"You see the kids who don't have eyes, arms or legs," Gretzky said, "and you'll never ever be upset at your son or daughter again."


Videos

Photos