Hockey

Phyllis Gretzky dies at age 64

Wayne Gretzky's mother, Phyllis, lost her battle with lung cancer on Monday. She was 64.

Wayne Gretzky's mother, Phyllis, lost her battle with lung cancer on Monday. She was 64.

"Throughout my career, she was in the background but she was the glue," Wayne Gretzky said at the time of her diagnosis in the autumn of 2004. "She's always been the toughest in the family."

Gretzky announced Saturday he was taking indefinite leave of his coaching duties with the Phoenix Coyotes to be with his ailing mother in Brantford, Ontario.

The Coyotes confirmed her passing late Monday night.

The funeral will take place Thursday morning at Grace Anglican Church in Brantford.

Gretzky addressed the Coyotes Saturday at the team hotel in Los Angeles before flying to Ontario to join his family including father Walter, sister Kim and brothers Brent, Glen and Keith.

Brother Brent, who plays for the Motor City Mechanics, also took a leave of absence from the United Hockey League team to be by his mother's side.

She died at Brantford General Hospital surrounded by her five children at about 10 p.m. ET following a bout of pneumonia that resulted in her being admitted into hospital Thursday.

"This has definitely been hard on everybody," son Glen Gretzky told the Brantford Expositor. "It's been a long 10 months and this is a very sad day."

Glen Gretzky said his father, Walter, is coping well with the situation.

Wayne Gretzky's role in assembling and directing Team Canada in the run up to the Torino Games in February has been left in doubt as a result of the week's developments.

In his absence, Rick Tocchet assumed the coaching duties for the Coyotes.

His mother's illness already kept Gretzky from overseeing the Canadian team at this year's world hockey championship in May.

Phyllis Hockin was born and raised in Paris, Ont., of British ancestry. She was 15 when she met Walter Gretzky, then 18, at a wiener roast on the Gretzky family farm, where their daughter Kim lives today.

"I took one look and knew she was the one for me," Walter Gretzky wrote in his book.

Phyllis often drove the kids to early-morning practices and Walter would take them to the games in the evening.

"I looked after the kids and the house; Wally went to work and looked after the finances," Phyllis Gretzky said in her husband's book.

She is survived by Walter, her five children and 12 grandchildren.

with files from CP Online