Wayne Gretzky donates $99K to U of A Hospital brain centre campaign

The all-time leader in National Hockey League assists just made another — but this time, it was a monetary assist to push Edmonton to the forefront of neuroscience.

Charitable effort has already raised $45M to advance neuroscience technology

Wayne Gretzky, his father Walter (middle) and Dennis Erker (right) present a cheque for $99,000 to the Brain Centre Campaign. (Peter Evans/CBC)

The all-time leader in National Hockey League assists just made another — but this time, Wayne Gretzky made a monetary assist to push Edmonton to the forefront of neuroscience.

The Wayne Gretzky Foundation donated $99,000 to the University Hospital Foundation's Brain Centre Campaign on Tuesday, and the former Edmonton Oilers great was named an honorary chair of the centre.

The campaign has raised more than $45 million in the last 2½ years and is set to keep the brain centre at the University of Alberta at the cutting edge of neuroscience research. 

"It was easy for me to be a part of this project," Gretzky said, with his father Walter by his side. "I'm really proud and feel really honoured to be here."

Gretzky's family has been affected by brain conditions. Walter had a brain aneurysm in 1991 and was left in a coma for eight days. He was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2012. 

"Today, he's obviously doing extremely well," Wayne said. "Still thinks he could play hockey."

'Champions of neuroscience'

Joyce Mallman Law, president of the University Hospital Foundation, said the donation from Gretzky is another step to making Edmonton a world leader in neuroscience.

"When something goes wrong with our brain, because it's the only one we have, the results can be devastating," Mallman Law said.

She said the U of A Hospital already uses groundbreaking technology, including the first stroke ambulance in Canada, revolutionary blood clot retrieval and incision-free brain surgery for tumours.

Linda Hughes, chair of the Alberta Health Services board, welcomed Gretzky to the Brain Centre Campaign as he joined what she called "another winning Edmonton team: the champions of neuroscience."

AHS board chair Linda Hughes said she's thrilled to have Gretzky on the team. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Hughes said she remembers watching Gretzky play in his 20 seasons in the NHL for four teams.

"For all the goals he scored, he made many more assists — and today is no different," Hughes said. She said his contribution may also inspire other Edmontonians to follow in his footsteps and donate to the effort.