Wayne Gretzky Makes Himself at Home with NY in Big Apple

By Laura Price 1997, Newsday | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 23, 1997 | Go to article overview

Wayne Gretzky Makes Himself at Home with NY in Big Apple


Laura Price 1997, Newsday, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Two blond boys race to the table hockey game in the corner of their living room. Six-year-old Ty, wearing the same checked pajamas as his brother, decides he will be the Montreal Canadiens. Four-year-old Trevor will be the Rangers. Paulina, their 8-year-old sister with their mother's porcelain features, wants a turn as well.

"You'll play the winner," says her dad, ever the diplomat.

Minutes later, there's a yelp. Ty is crying. Though the Little Ones play well together, Paulina accidentally scratches him in the heat of this game. "OK, hold on, what happened?" says Wayne Gretzky, a concerned parent of the '90s. "OK, both timeouts, c'mon." The cries quiet, the crisis passes, and Gretzky reclines on a crushed red velvet sofa. This is Wayne's other world, the one away from Madison Square Garden, the NHL and the curious eyes that follow the Great One's every move. In the Upper East Side penthouse he shares with his wife, Janet, and the three children, Gretzky is father and husband first, surrounded by family love that has been the bedrock for a hockey career considered the greatest ever. "There's two different Wayne Gretzkys," he says. "There's a Wayne Gretzky hockey fans know, the public knows, who think they know me. And then there's a Wayne Gretzky who has a family and who has friends who do know me. You almost live two kinds of lives. "We're on TV so much now and there's so much media that people really do believe they know you and they form opinions about you without really knowing you, without even meeting you," Gretzky continues. "That's why you try to do your best at the game, work hard and be as proper as you can. Then, as a person and a parent, you try to treat people the way you want to be treated, with respect." Duffel bags and pint-sized hockey sticks crowd the area near the front door, which opens to a narrow hallway and into a living room bathed in soft light. Surrounding the couch, leopard-print pillows are tossed carefully on earth-tone chairs. On the hardwood floor, a giant teddy bear lies on its back next to a toy gibbon. The Gretzkys, accustomed to mansions in Los Angeles, are adjusting to apartment life in Manhattan. Their three dachshunds stayed out West; the kids weren't too happy about that. "The first couple of months we heard, `Daddy, when are we going to L.A.?"' Gretzky says. "Now I think they understand this is home and they'll be here until the school year is over." Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones aren't as "Hollywood" as they look. Both were reared in middle-income families - Janet in St. Louis and Wayne, one of five children, at 42 Varadi Ave. in Brantford, Ontario. He was a wisp of a boy who practiced backhand shots until his neighbors, the Rizzettos, turned off the garage lights that illuminated "Wally Coliseum," the backyard rink named after Walter Gretzky, Wayne's father and best friend. "We try, believe it or not, because some days it's an impossibility, to make our life as normal as possible," Gretzky says. "We always try to think of how our parents were and how they tried to raise us as kids, the things they tried to do with and for their kids. We can't re-create it. "Obviously, I'll never be the kind of father to my kids the way my father was to me or the way Janet's father was to her. It's a different li festyle. …

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