While Howie Meeker was no slouch when it comes to playing hockey, some of his greatest moments have come from the broadcast booth and not the ice. Born on November 4, 1924 in Kitchener, Ontario, Howie Meeker has done just about everything except drive the Zamboni in his almost 80 years.
He appeared in 346 games -all with the Toronto Maple Leafs – over eight seasons, until a back injury forced his retirement as a player. Meeker also missed the 1943/44 and 1944/45 seasons while serving with the Canadian Armed Forces.
During the early 1950s, he also served as a member of parliament. During his playing days, he won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie and shared in four Stanley Cup Championships with the Leafs. He also tied the NHL record of most goals scored in one game by a rookie when he scored five against the Chicago Black Hawks on January 8, 1947.
After retiring as a player, he spent one season as coach of the Leafs. He started the 1957 season as the Leafs’ general manager, but that job quickly ended following a heated exchange between Meeker and Leafs’ owner Stafford Smythe. “He shoved me and I popped him between the eyes,” recalled Meeker.
While remaining busy, Meeker kept a low profile for more than a decade, before a chance meeting with Hockey night in Canada host Ted Darling in 1969 landed him a job as a colour commentator. Meeker went on to enjoy a 30-year career as a colour analyst. Much of his popularity stemmed from the enthusiasm he brought the job and his knack for telling it like it was…
“Some guys were scared to say their thoughts and skirted the subject by not saying what really happened. There was nothing ever instructive or critical” he said. “I had enough other things going that the money I got from HNIC was holiday money. It didn’t matter to me if I got fired.”
Some 30 years later, Meeker was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998 in the Broadcaster’s Category, following his 30-year career on Hockey Night in Canada and TSN. The Hockey News, in their Dec. 24, 1999 issue, named their 100 Most Colorful People in Hockey… Howie was ranked # 76.