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Funeral in Ontario draws hundreds

12/22/2005 - NHL Phoenix Coyotes

BRANTFORD, Ontario -- Wayne Gretzky mourned one of his
greatest losses Thursday, bidding farewell to the quiet matriarch
that kept his family together.
"People in Canada knew her as a hockey mother, but we knew her
as just a wonderful person," Gretzky said, holding back tears in a
touching eulogy to his mother, Phyllis.
The Anglican funeral service drew hundreds, including players
and fans, to the southwestern Ontario city of about 90,000 people.
Phyllis Gretzky, a mother of five and grandmother of 13, was a
beacon her children sought in times of need, the 44-year-old
Gretzky said.
"If we got in trouble and needed to get out of trouble, we went
to our mother," he said. "She cherished the moments she had, not
only with her kids, but with her grandchildren. Her eyes used to
light up each and every day if she got a phone call from a
grandchild, a note, a letter or a gift."
Gretzky's 64-year-old mother died Monday night. She was
surrounded by her children after a yearlong battle with lung
cancer.
Gretzky's 67-year-old father Walter stood up and hugged his son
after the eulogy.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and former hockey star Paul Coffey
attended the service at Grace Anglican Church.
The service concluded with a song and a video montage of family
highlights.
Escorted by his wife Janet, Gretzky and the rest of his family
followed Phyllis's casket, draped in a white shawl, to burial.
"It was a great service for a great lady," former Gretzky
teammate Shayne Corson said as church bells rang.
The mayor of Brantford, a city where Gretzky's name graces
hockey arenas and flags flew at half-staff Thursday, called it a
dark day.
"This whole city is in mourning," Mike Hancock said. "We all
feel we lost a family member."
Gretzky, executive director of Canada's men's Olympic hockey
team, wasn't in Vancouver when the team was announced on Wednesday,
but will resume his duties with the team in January, Hockey Canada
president Bob Nicholson said.
The NHL's career scoring leader also put his coaching career
with the Phoenix Coyotes on hold last week after his mother's
health worsened.