Losing Trebek, Meeker sad day for Canada

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Canada lost two broadcasting icons on one day, Nov. 8, and while Alex Trebek is known almost solely for his work on the television game show Jeopardy, both he and Howie Meeker had connections to Hockey Night in Canada.

Ken Campbell in SI-The Hockey News wrote the story about Trebek, at the time doing a variety of broadcasting work for CBC, being one of five finalists in 1970 as a replacement for the recently fired Ward Cornell on HNIC. 

Dave Hodge ultimately got the job, but Campbell’s story said that executive producer Ralph Mellanby preferred Trebek above all others. 

But his boss, Ted Hough, overruled Mellanby, saying he didn’t like his hosts to have moustaches, a Trebek trademark.

Later, Trebek told Mellanby he would have been happy to cut off his moustache to get the job, but thanked him for bypassing him for the job because … well, he went on to California and became a beloved, and very wealthy, TV figure south of the border.

Meeker, meanwhile, passed away in Nanaimo at the age of 97. 

He was a hockey lifer, playing 12 seasons in the NHL for the Leafs, winning four Stanley Cups along the way and capturing the rookie-of-the-year award in 1946-47, beating out, among others, fellow freshman Gordie Howe. 

He also coached the Leafs for one year, was a Member of Parliament for two years in the 1950s, and then spent a couple of decades as a between-periods analyst on Hockey Night in Canada and, later, TSN.

Meeker certainly had his admirers, but he had plenty of detractors, too. 

He sprinkled his analysis with enthusiastic but out-of-date catch-phrases — “Golly Gee” and “Gee Willikers” were among his favourites — and bought the phrase “hoop around a barrel” into common Canadian lexicon to describe a forward making a defenceman look silly trying to defend a rush. 

“He went around him like a hoop around a barrel,” Meeker would say. 

He was the first to use a telestrator to show fans at home exactly what happened on a particular play. A generation of hockey viewers not only knew what happened on a particular play, but why it happened, thanks to Meeker.

The world works in mysterious ways. 

Trebek was a moustache away from perhaps being the host of a sports program showing games in which Meeker was the analyst. 

So the answer to the question: What was one of the saddest days for Canada? The answer is Nov. 8, 2020.

Slap Shots

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “MLB announced it won’t discipline Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner for returning to the field to celebrate his team’s World Series championship after testing positive midgame for COVID-19. Hey, it was either that or suspend him for 10 spring-training games.”

• Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com, on Fighting Irish fans rushing the field en masse after beating Clemson: “Is Justin Turner Notre Dame’s crowd consultant?”

• Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: “(MLB’s) Rob Manfred is consistent — every day he is the worst commissioner in professional sports.”

• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The New York Jets are going to follow Donald Trump’s lead and are going to sue all 16 teams that beat them.”

• Fark.com:  “Formula One decides doing business with Russia, China and Bahrain wasn’t enough to anger supporters of human rights and adds Saudi Arabia to the 2021 schedule.”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Alex Cora is back as Red Sox manager after a one-year ban for cheating. Adjusted bromide: ‘Cheaters Almost Never Prosper’.”

• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on Twitter, recalling numerous late collapses by the Falcons: “As Falcons take 20-3 lead at halftime over Broncos, Atlanta fans start to chant, ‘Stop the count!’”

• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “With all the craziness and uncertainty in 2020, it is really good to know there are some constants — like the NY Jets will ALWAYS find a way to lose.”

• Michael Farber of SI.com, on Twitter: “Not saying it took long for Bryson (DeChambeau) to play that 13th hole, but they’ve put him on the sun dial.”

• New York Post reader Bruce Christoffersen: “Brian Cashman (of the Yankees) built a team to win the Home Run Derby, not the World Series.”

• Steve Simmons again:  “True story: Boxing promoter and convicted felon Don King once had a financial adviser named Joseph Maffia.”

• Another one from Janice Hough, on the glut of 49ers on the NFL’s Injured Reserve and COVID-19 lists: “At this point the Niners may need to allow fans in the stands just to have a pool of players for pregame tryouts.”

• Dwight Perry one more time: “The Texans fired vice president of communications Amy Palcic, the first woman to run an NFL team’s PR department. ‘New team motto: Make Bad Trades, Shoot The Messenger’.”

Care to comment? Email brucepenton2003@yahoo.ca.

by Bruce Penton

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