There are few people still around who would have seen Howie Meeker play hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the 91-year-old Parskville resident retains a fan base nonetheless.
“It’s funny,” he said. “In the last three or four days our neighbours have had visitors come in from all over Canada, and at some point they mentioned Howie Meeker lived next door. And I guess some of them said, ‘Howie Meeker! Lord thunder Jesus, can we meet him?’”
It was that manner of speech which made him a household name in Canada in the 1970s and 80s, when he served as colour commentator for Hockey Night in Canada, BCTV and TNT before his retirement in 1998.
It was that broadcasting career which earned him a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, though he also had an accomplished, if brief, career as an NHL player and coach. And as an MP in parliament, where he remains unbeaten in political elections.
Meeker broke into the NHL with the Leafs in the 1946-47 season, scoring 27 goals and 45 points and was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He also helped Toronto to the first of three consecutive Stanley Cups and finished his career having hoisted the cup four times in six seasons with the team.
In his final season in the NHL, he doubled as a Progressive Conservative MP after winning a by-election in the Ontario riding of Waterloo South in June of 1951. He declined to run again in 1953 and has never returned to electoral politics.
As a broadcaster on Hockey Night in Canada, he was known for his distinctive squeaky voice and Newfoundlander-inflected colloquialisms. But he left a mark, providing more insightful analysis than was common at the time and introducing the telestrator to demonstrate points, essentially ushering in the modern era of televised hockey.