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Wally's World: Gretzky's dad will make you smile

Park your 'Plays of the Week' expectations at the door, and start thinking more along the lines of sitting down to a cup of tea with a favourite older uncle. Get ready to meet Walter Gretzky in a way you’ve never seen before

Get to know the Great One’s father, like you’ve never seen before

Walter Gretzky is one of hockey's most-loved dads. A new three-part mini-documentary series showcases more of his heartwarming qualities. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Welcome to Wally's World. It's a quirky place, an affectionate one, and a bit of a time trip. It is also, we acknowledge, a departure for CBC Sports.  These are not hard and fast stats about a national hero; instead, you'll discover the inner life of the most famous father in hockey. Watch these videos and you will get a unique look at Walter Gretzky.

Courtesy of CBC Docs and CBC Sports, we present a special offering, unlike most of the other content on this site. So, park your 'Plays of the Week' expectations at the door, and start thinking more along the lines of sitting down to a cup of tea with a favourite older uncle. 

This is Wally's World and he's glad you are dropping by. (There are three episodes: "Rescue", "Feeding the homeless" and "Pick up sticks". Click on the video player to watch each episode. A Q&A with the director follows at the bottom of this page.)


'Walter inspired me'

Danny Nash, director of Wally's World, joined CBC Sports for a Q&A on his latest project.

CBC Sports: What inspired you to start working on this project?

DN: Walter inspired me. He has so many great stories, and is such a great storyteller, I knew I had to start documenting him.

CBC Sports: What is your connection to this famous Canadian family?

DN: My dad taught Wayne in school, also ran a ball hockey league Wayne was enthusiastic about. Wayne, Walter, and my dad developed a bond. My dad and Walter still remain close friends today.

My personal connection helped me understand what exactly I wanted to capture from Walter. I wanted to share the stories the same way I remember first hearing them. It was also important to me to have some off-camera-like clips to fully show the audience his personality.

CBC Sports: What led to you profiling Walter in particular as opposed to another figure in the Gretzky family?

DN: Walter is just a wonderful human being all around. Loves people, loves telling stories, and loves to make people laugh. Also, Wayne is really hard to get hold of.  

CBC Sports: Walter is such a great storyteller. How did you choose those three stories?

DN: Well I broke down about 10 stories I could do with Walter. Some shorter than others, and some stronger than others. These three stories I knew I could tell and provide visuals of Walter still taking part in, today.

CBC Sports: Why did you choose to do this as a series of shorts, rather than a longer form piece?

DN: It was a debate whether or not to long form. I think by featuring them individually, you get a better sense of the story and the characters involved. Also, in the digital world, the shorter, the sweeter, the better!

CBC Sports: How did the idea of incorporating animation come about?

DN: When pitching the series, CBC first came up with the idea and I really liked it in the sense of making the doc unique. Furthermore, Walter talks about the past, and instead of reenacting in very detailed shots, we decided to animate this instead. No actors, no lookalikes, just a charming animation of Wally.

CBC Sports: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process of making this series?

DN: The most surprising thing I've learned is that Walter still surprises me. There's always a story, a thought, a history lesson, or a joke, that is new.

CBC Sports: What was the most challenging moment you encountered during production?

DN: The most challenging moment was on the first day of shooting, myself and crew members were all driving out to Brantford to shoot at the school and later the shelter, when I received a call from the good people at Daily Bread Dinners telling me that their dinner had been cancelled due to snow. If you know how TV works, you know how bad this can be. I immediately started thinking of ways to somehow put the dinner back on, even if it meant crew members cooking the food, or ordering Swiss Chalet and faking it! But there was nothing we could do because it was announced in various places throughout the neighbourhood. Luckily, I have a great team and we all figured out a way to move around shooting blocks to still make our day, and make up for the shelter footage the following week. It all worked out.

CBC Sports: What was the most interesting thing you learned about Walter that people who have just watched Wayne on the rink might not know?

DN: The most interesting thing I've learned about Walter is his unconditional love for everything and everyone. I've seen this a thousand times with him, but if you ever get a chance to meet him, he may tell you something, or share of piece of him with you, that will touch, inspire, and make you smile.

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