Howard William (Howie) Meeker

Howard William (Howie) Meeker, hockey broadcaster, player and coach (b at Kitchener, Ont 4 Nov 1923).

Howard William (Howie) Meeker

Howard William (Howie) Meeker, hockey broadcaster, player and coach (b at Kitchener, Ont 4 Nov 1923). Widely known for his enthusiastic, effervescent, and oftentimes critical commentary on the CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION's (CBC) Hockey Night in Canada, Meeker began playing hockey in the Ontario Junior B league in 1940. A speedy and pugnacious right-winger, he won the Junior B championship with the Stratford Kist-Canadians in 1942. Having joined the army's Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers in 1943, he was wounded in 1944 when a live grenade exploded beneath his legs during training exercises in England. Upon returning to Canada, Meeker joined the TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS in 1946 and won the Calder Trophy as the NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE's (NHL) top rookie in 1947. That season, he set rookie records for most goals scored in a season (27) and most goals scored in one game (5). During the first 5 years he spent with the Maple Leafs, he won 4 Stanley Cups.

In 1951, at the behest of federal Progressive Conservative party leader George Drew, Meeker joined the Tories and won a by-election in his hometown riding of Waterloo South. At 27, he was the youngest Member of Parliament, and he continued to sit in office for 2 years while still playing for the Maple Leafs. Following his decision not to seek re-election in August 1953, and plagued by injuries, Meeker embarked on a new career in coaching. A year after guiding the Pittsburgh Hornets to the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League in 1955, Meeker returned to Toronto as coach of the Maple Leafs. But, after failing to make the playoffs, Meeker joined the Maple Leafs' front office as general manager in 1957. However, disputes with team owner Conn SMYTHE and his son Stafford ended Meeker's association with the organization before the year was over.

Accepting a personal invitation from Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood, Meeker moved to St John's in 1958 to become involved with that city's youth hockey program. During his 18-year stay, Meeker's work helped unite a hockey system that had been previously divided along religious lines. In 1962, after running the United Church Athletic Association's Guards hockey program for 4 years, he created and ran the Consolidated Avalon Minor Hockey program, consisting of recreational and competitive leagues for elementary school children. Several years later, he created the Juvenile RCMP league, which engaged both Catholic and Protestant youth players.

Meeker's reputation as a broadcaster grew soon after he first appeared on Hockey Night in Canada in 1968. His impartial and passionate game analysis, in addition to his use of the Telestrator (a video instant-replay tool), quickly separated him from his colleagues and predecessors. Ralph Mellanby, former executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada, said, "no one broadcaster ever changed TV hockey coverage more than Howie." Meeker was also easily identified by the colloquialisms he used on air, such as, "golly gee whillikers,""jumpin' Jehoshaphat," and "Jiminy Cricket." Meeker remained with the CBC until 1990 and continued with TSN until he left broadcasting in 1998.

Meeker has been recognized for his many contributions to hockey. He was inducted into the broadcasting categories in both the Hockey Hall of Fame (1998) and the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame (2003). In 2005, his book Howie Meeker's Hockey Basics, published in 1973, was selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the 63rd most important Canadian book of all-time.

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