02/23/2015 10:01 EST | Updated 04/25/2015 05:59 EDT

Wayne Gretzky Endorses Patrick Brown For Ontario PC Leader


TORONTO - Wayne Gretzky waded into Ontario's Progressive Conservative leadership race on Monday by voicing his support for Patrick Brown, a member of parliament for Barrie, Ont.

The hockey legend endorsed Brown as the best person to become the leader of Ontario's official Opposition.

"I have known Patrick Brown for a number of years now," Gretzky said in a statement. "Hard working and dedicated, Patrick is a strong Conservative. He has the passion and vision to lead Ontario."

Brown, the only leadership hopeful without a seat in the Ontario legislature, expressed his gratitude for Gretzky's words.

"I am honoured to have support from Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian icon and one of the greatest athletes of our time," Brown said in a statement.

"I am rebuilding the PC Party by reaching out to people outside our traditional voting base. I am connecting with people who share a vision of a better Ontario but who haven't felt at home with our party, and those who have never been politically active before."

Brown, who hosts an annual charity hockey game in Barrie, has also garnered endorsements from other professional athletes, including former NHL-er Dale Hawerchuk and former Toronto Blue Jays player Devon White.

Brown is running against deputy Ontario PC leader Christine Elliott — the widow of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty — and London, Ont., area member of provincial parliament Monte McNaughton.

Progressive Conservatives across the province will vote in May for the leader to replace Tim Hudak, who resigned after the Tories' fourth consecutive election loss to the Liberals last June.