Another Canadian legend has died.
Howie Meeker, a former Maple Leafs player and colourful hockey analyst, died in Nanaimo General Hospital on Sunday. He was 97.
A spokesman for the Toronto Maple Leafs confirmed with The Canadian Press by email that Meeker died on Sunday. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.
For many Canadians who watched hockey in the 1970’s and ’80s Meeker’s voice was synonymous with Saturday night.
But Meeker’s hockey broadcasting career followed an even more successful one on the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs winning four Stanley Cups in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951.
He even set up the winning goal in 1951 by passing the puck to Bill Barilko for the overtime winner against Montreal.
During his seven seasons with the Leafs, he not only won multiple Stanley Cups, but won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1947 and became the fastest Maple Leaf to score 25 goals in a single season.
He also served as a Member of Parliament, representing Waterloo South, for two years while he was with the Leafs.
Shortly after his playing career ended, he briefly became the coach of the Maple Leafs.
All that was after he served in the Second World War and was hit by a grenade during training, never thinking he’d even be able to skate again.
“I was very lucky to get out of that with as little damage to my leg as what happened, but it blew me up about eight feet,” he once told Leafs Insider.
The injury caused him to miss D-Day.
“A lot of my very close friends didn’t come back,” he added.
Retired Vancouver sportscaster Bernie Pascall remembers his life-long friendship with Meeker. They even worked together at BCTV for many years.
“I had a chance to interview him when I was 16 years old and we laughed and laughed about it in later years,” recalls Pascall.
After hockey, Meeker became an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada, where his voice captured the attention of millions during the 1970s and 1980s.
He later moved to TSN and continued his career until his retirement in the 1990s.
“You talk about an icon in the business, we could go to a Broadway theatre show in New York people would know him. We’d go to a deli in Montreal before a game and people knew him,” said Pascall.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a broadcaster in 1998 and named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010.
Meeker was also known for his hockey schools, which he ran for decades, and literally wrote the book on hockey called Howie Meeker’s Hockey Basics.
In the later years of his life, Meeker resided in the Oceanside area on Vancouver Island.
In 2017, he became the oldest Leaf alive after goalie Johnny Bower died. He talked to CHEK at the time about what it meant to be a Maple Leaf forever.
“Oh I’m a Toronto Maple Leaf, really, It does something to you,” he said.
Meeker had six children with his first wife Grace, they were married for 55 years before she died of cancer. He remarried, living with wife Leah in Parksville on Vancouver Island where they were active in fundraising for the B.C. Guide Dog Services.
Funeral arrangements were pending.
With files from The Canadian Press
We are saddened with the news that our friend Howie Meeker passed away this morning at the age of 97 at Nanaimo General Hospital. ?@MapleLeafs? ?@HockeyHallFame?.Condolences to his wife Leah and family. #RIP pic.twitter.com/90oVm76Arq
— Bernie Pascall (@berniepascall) November 8, 2020