Howie Meeker, a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Toronto Maple Leafs who was known to later generations of fans as an analyst for “Canada’s Hockey Night”, died on Sunday. He was 97 years old.
Kitchener’s striker, Ontario, was the last living member of the Toronto Cup winning teams of 1947-49 and 1951. He played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1947, 1948 and 1949.
Meeker joined the Maple Leafs in 1946-47 and was named winner of the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year after scoring 45 points (27 goals, 18 assists) in 55 games. Five of his goals were in a game against the Chicago Black Hawks at Maple Leaf Gardens on January 8, 1947, setting an NHL record in a single game for newbies. He scored three goals and six points in 11 games of the Stanley Cup Playoff, helping the Maple Leafs to win their first of three consecutive championships – the first team in NHL history to do so.
Receiving the Calder Memorial Trophy as the best NHL rookie for WAH MacBrien, vice president of Maple Leaf Gardens on October 13, 1947, just before the first NHL All-Star game in Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Although Meeker never came close to producing offensively as he did when he was a rookie, he was a valuable member of the Toronto championship teams in 1948, 1949 (although he lost the playoffs with a broken collarbone) and 1951. He retired from the NHL after 1953 -54 season with 185 points (83 goals, 102 assists) in 346 regular season games and 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 42 playoff games, although he continued to play with senior teams in Canada until the end 1960s.
Meeker trained the Maple Leafs in 1956-57, when they finished 21-34 with 15 draws and did not qualify for the playoffs.
Beginning in the 1970s, a new generation of hockey fans met Meeker through his work on TV, mainly in “Hockey Night in Canada”. He was one of the first analysts to use a telestrator, and his catchphrase, “Stop it here”, became a trademark. He was the winner of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award at the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998 for excellence in hockey broadcasting and was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010.
Meeker has been involved with Special Olympics for nearly 50 years, launching Special Olympics Canada after being invited to participate by former NHL referee Harry “Red” Foster. He also lent his name and support to the Howie Meeker Charity Golf Classic, which will host the fundraising event until 2018.
Photos courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame image files