Howie Meeker, right, and wife Leah. (File photo)

Howie Meeker, right, and wife Leah. (File photo)

Canadian hockey and broadcasting legend Howie Meeker dies at age 97

Longtime B.C. resident starred with Toronto Maple Leafs, HNIC

Canadian hockey and broadcasting legend Howie Meeker has died at the age of 97.

Meeker played eight years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1947. He was a member of Toronto teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951. He finished his NHL career with 89 goals and adding 111 assists in 388 regular season and playoff games, adding 377 penalty minutes. He continued to play pro hockey on and off for another 15 years at a variety of levels including the American Hockey League and Newfoundland Senior League, among others.

He spent two years as a Progressive Conservative MP while he played for Toronto. In June 1951, Meeker won the federal by-election in the Ontario riding of Waterloo South but did not seek re-election in the 1953 election.

On January 8, 1947, Meeker became one of 44 players to score five goals or more in one game.

Meeker replaced King Clancy as coach of the Maple Leafs in April 1956. He went 21-34-15 in his one season behind the bench before moving upstairs to become GM the next season.

Meeker is especially well-known to generations of Canadian hockey fans for his turn as an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada. With his familiar calls of “Golly gee” and “keep your stick on the ice” and “stop it right there”, he was both an entertainer and a teacher.

He was the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner in 1998 for excellence in hockey broadcasting and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998 as a broadcaster.

“Howie was Howie. And he set the bar, no question about it,” fellow “Hockey Night in Canada” commentator Dick Irvin once said.

Meeker, oft clad in a CBC powder blue jacket, was hard to miss. He was the Don Cherry of his time, although he kept his focus on hockey.

During the ’70s, he offered up drills and tips during his “Howie Meeker Hockey School” sessions on CBC.

He later wrote another book called “Golly Gee — It’s Me: The Howie Meeker Story.” And he never ran short of opinions on how to improve the game he loved.

In 2010, Meeker was named a Member of the Order of Canada and was also inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

He ran hockey schools and camps across Canada and the U.S. for many years, and is beloved in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region on Vancouver Island. Parksville’s hockey arena is named after him.

Born in Kitchener, Ont., Meeker’s childhood entry into hockey was helped by the fact that his father had a Coca-Cola route that employed several NHL players during the summer.

New York Rangers defenceman Ott Heller gave the young Meeker his first hockey stick.

“I’ve had a hockey stick in my hand quite a bit in the last 75 years,” he said in 2002, recalling the memory. “I must have been four or five at that time.”

Meeker played junior hockey for the Stratford Kroehlers and the Brantford Lions before serving in the Second World War during which he was badly injured by a grenade in training.

“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 recalled.

He missed D-Day because of that.

“A lot of my very close friends didn’t come back,” he told Leafs Insider.

Meeker was also a well-known philanthropist, honoured for more than 40 years of support of Special Olympics by being inducted into the Special Olympics B.C. (SOBC) Hall of Fame.

Whatever his age, Meeker had some advice to give.

In 2015, when he received an honorary doctor of laws at Memorial University’s convocation, he told the students that it was 20 years living in Newfoundland — he left in the mid-70s — that taught him balance in life was essential.

“I hope you young ladies and gentleman have learned how to live by living here in St. John’s or in Newfoundland. Take it with you. Because all work and no play is not very good,” Meeker said to applause.

Meeker followed his own advice.

“If I had been born a multi-millionaire, I’d have paid someone to do what I’ve done all my life,” he said in a 2013 CBC interview.

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, where they were active in fundraising for the B.C. Guide Dog Services.

In his later years, he dutifully watched over the French Creek estuary area, making sure there was no illegal crab or bivalve harvesting ongoing.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

READ MORE: Howie Meeker honoured for work with Special Olympics

READ MORE: Howie Meeker marks Canada Day, Order of Canada

READ MORE: 90 years old, sharp as a tack

– NEWS Staff, with files from Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

NHLParksvillequalicum beach

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Three Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store volunteers have tested positive for COVID-19. (Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary photo)
Three Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store volunteers test positive for COVID-19

Anyone who volunteered at Thrift Store between Nov. 14 - Nov. 28 is asked to monitor for symptoms

Ben Maartman, left, and Murray McNab are running for regional director for Area H North Oyster-Diamond in a Cowichan Valley Regional District byelection later this month. (Photos submitted)
Preliminary Area H byelection results show Maartman up by seven votes, McNab to ask for recount

Results of the by-election to by finalized by noon on Tuesday, December 1

New crosswalk across Henry Road from the Mount Brenton Golf Course is now in use for golfers. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Awareness required in the initial stages of new signalized crosswalk

Drivers looking at more stops and starts while golfers stick to one crossing point

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley was passed up for a cabinet position by Premier John Horgan. (Photo submitted)
Routley left off the list of NDP cabinet ministers again

Premier Horgan opts for some newcomers in key positions over experienced MLA

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Left to right: A screenshot of NTC nurse navigator Lesley Cerney, FNHA regional mental health manager Georjeana Paterson and Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns addressing Ehattesaht community members from Ehatis reserve in a Facebook live update. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve near Zeballos to guide community through COVID outbreak

17 cases, eight recoveries and no hospitalizations as Island Health praises First Nation’s response

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Most Read