Back row, left to right: JoAnna Roberto, Lauri Holomis, Sam Grewal, Glen Gretzky, Liana Thompson, Jessica Rypma and Jeannette Marry pose with Walter Gretzky Elementary School students.

Great Book Launch at Walter Gretzky Elementary

“You miss one-hundred per cent of the shots you don’t take.”

From left: Lauri Holomis and Glen Gretzky sign copies of Great Too at Walter Gretzky Elementary School on Oct. 20.

That’s just one morsel of advice Glen Gretzky and his siblings received from their father, Walter Gretzky, over the years. In fact, ‘Coach Wally’ had so much wisdom to impart, it could fill a book. Two books, in fact. On October 19, Walter Gretzky Elementary School provided the perfect location to launch Great Too, coauthored by Glen with Lauri Holomis. The children’s book is the follow-up to Great, and tells the tale of Coach Wally as he guides young hockey players Taylor and Wayne, building their confidence and helping them reach their full potential, both on and off the ice. 

“Whether it’s a math or science lesson, if you don’t understand something the first time, that’s okay –  try again,” Gretzky told an audience of grade 2 and 3 students in the gym while other classrooms in the school tuned into the live presentation virtually. “It’s okay to make mistakes, practice pays off, and your teachers are there to help you be the best that you can be.” 

Above: Glen Gretzky and Lauri Holomis look on as artist Kevin Sylvester demonstrates how to draw figures to an attentive audience of Walter Gretzky Elementary students.

The presentation included a reading of the book with Holomis, before she and Gretzky answered questions from students ranging from their inspiration for the book’s concept, to the collaborative process of writing it, to whether they intend to write more in the series featuring Coach Wally (yes, they do). The event also included a virtual drawing demonstration with the book’s illustrator, Kevin Sylvester, as he guided students through the simple beginnings of a stick-figure drawing, bringing it to life with details that turned the basic pen strokes into a hockey player in motion. 

Above: Look for copies of Great Too in libraries and learning commons across Grand Erie.

“Walter’s generous spirit, devotion to family, and contributions to his community are all reasons to be proud we have an elementary school bearing his name,” said JoAnna Roberto, Director of Education, as she helped kick off the presentation with principal Jeannette Marry. “He has a lot of lessons to offer all of us.” 

Grand Erie’s multi-year strategic plan includes the vision to Learn, Lead and Inspire, and Great Too echoes that vision. As Coach Wally sets up a simple play – pass, shoot, goal! – the teamwork, encouragement and ability to rebound from setbacks show the parallels between a great hockey coach and a great educator. 

Staff at the school, including teacher Sam Grewal, were instrumental in bringing the book launch to this fitting setting, and worked within COVID-19 guidelines to make it safe and enjoyable for all. Walter Gretzky, a beloved figure in the Brantford community and known the world over as the ultimate hockey dad, passed away last March. 

Above: An interior spread from Great Too details Coach Wally's style of teaching.

It wasn’t all questions from students during the Q-and-A. One took the mic to say that he plays hockey too, and dreams of playing for the Brantford 99ers. 

“That’s great! Keep practicing, listen to your coaches, and you’ll get there,” said Gretzky. 

Great Too is published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada. Look for it in libraries and learning commons across Grand Erie soon.

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