Wayne Gretzky is just as proud of his Canadian roots as Canadians are to call him our own homegrown legend.
The famed former professional hockey player and NHL coach is now a seasoned businessman and has his hands in a variety of business ventures, including the Gretzky Estates wine and whiskey label and a couple of restaurants – Gretzky’s in Toronto, and No. 99 Gretzky’s Wine and Whiskey at the Edmonton International Airport.
Most recently, Gretzky has partnered with UNTUCKit, a men’s clothing line that specializes in dress shirts that look good untucked. As a new investor and brand ambassador, Gretzky was in town to mark the U.S.-based brand’s arrival in Canada on September 10, participating in a Q&A with UNTUCKit founder Chris Riccobono at the shiny new Sherway Gardens store.
I learned a little more about “The Great One” – holder of countless NHL records – during the panel and in an impromptu post-panel interview that the refreshingly down to earth icon agreed to. Here are five things you may not know about Wayne Gretzky…
He trusts his wife’s taste in his clothing.
Gretzky admitted that it was his wife of 30 years, Janet (their glamorous wedding was bailed as “Canada’s royal wedding”), who discovered the brand first, and picked a few shirts up for her famous husband at UNTUCKit’s St. Louis retail location. Gretzky – who described his fashion sense as one of comfort-first – was so fond of the shirts that he reached out to Riccobono. It didn’t take long before Gretzky ended up investing an undisclosed amount in the company and will appear in various marketing campaigns
.He starts the day with gin rummy.
Naturally, there is no such thing as a “typical day” in Gretzky’s world, but he says they usually start the same: with coffee and gin rummy with his wife (aw). “It goes in cycles,” says Gretzky of his everyday life. “Sometimes I’m really busy. The last couple of days I was in New York and I was working for a little bit, tomorrow I’m off to China for nine days; so there’s time when I’m busy and there’s time when I am just a father at home, spending time with my two youngest kids. It’s no different than anybody else – you have to get up, you have to work, and you have to put in the time.”
He has a soft spot for pierogi.
When Gretzky is in Toronto, he often makes an appearance at his restaurant Gretzky’s – which opened its memorabilia-filled doors 25 years ago – where he says his favourite thing on the menu is the pierogi. “I don’t really get a chance to eat them often because in California there aren’t a lot of Polish restaurants,” says Gretzky of his beloved dish. “The people at my restaurant have made them as close to the way my grandmother used to make them. She’d boil them, fry them, sour cream, caramelized onion, and bacon.”
His family is what makes him proudest to be Canadian.
While Gretzky has made Canadians proud for decades, he says his family is what makes him beam with good old Canadian pride. “My dad and my mom were always very special people,” said Gretzky. “My dad was the son of immigrants who came over from Poland and Russia but he grew up here. My dad is probably the proudest Canadian in the whole country. I know there are lots of proud Canadians, but wherever he travels – wherever he goes – he always reminds people that he is Canadian and says that it’s God’s country and it’s the best place in the world. My family is what makes me proudest to be Canadian.”
You can find him in Idaho.
Where’s his favourite spot to escape it all? “When we were younger, we used to love going to Paradise Island in the Bahamas,” says Gretzky. “It’s safe. It’s close; you don’t have to fly 18 hours to get there. But, as we have gotten older, our favourite spot is Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We have a summer house there on the lake and it’s only an hour and a half-long flight from our home in L.A. We spend six to eight weeks there in the summertime. My older kids come in and out because it’s such a close flight. The grandkids have a ball because they love to go out on the water, we have a pool there, and they love driving around in the golf carts. It’s probably our favourite place to go.”