WATCH: Ninety-three-year-old Johnny Bower died Tuesday after short bout of pneumonia. Dean Stoltz reports
Johnny Bower played 12 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups, including the team’s last in 1967.
Tributes to the Hall of Famer have been pouring in, including from two-time Stanley Cup champion as a Toronto Maple Leafs player Howie Meeker.
“Johnny Bower is just a great guy,” said Meeker from his home in French Creek near Parksville.
Meeker and Bower never played together. Bower joined the Leafs in 1958, four years after Meeker left, but they knew each other for decades afterwards as Leafs alumni.
“Great goaltender and you had to get to know him but he handled people like I?m a hockey player, thank God I?m a hockey player and thank God there are people like you.” added Meeker.
Howie Meeker might be better known as an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada during the 1970s and 80s.
Now at 94-years-old, Meeker is the oldest living former Maple Leaf.
Oh I?m [forever] a Toronto Maple Leaf really, it does something to you. They are a special group of people.” said Meeker.
But Meeker is crediting another group of special people for giving him a new lease on life.
Heart doctors at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria diagnosed him with aortic stenosis, a problem with his heart valves that cause the heart to work harder due to calcium deposits in the valves.
He’s too old for open heart surgery but thanks to a new piece of equipment called a C-Arm, which gives high definition images of the heart and blood vessels, he underwent a much less invasive procedure that has his heart working normally again.
Before the C-Arm’s pricise quidance was available, open heart surgery was the only option.
“This one here shut off,” Meeker described. “And the second it shut off this one here starts. He (his doctor) says it didn?t miss a beat.”
He says both sides of his heart are pumping equally now.
He is so thankful, he his telling his story in hopes of helping the Victoria Hospitals Foundation raise the $1.7 million to pay for the new piece of equipment.