Spr Howard “Howie” William Meeker, OC (Ret’d)
We regret to advise of the death of Sapper Howard “Howie” William Meeker, OC (Ret’d) on 8 November 2020 in Nanaimo General Hospital in British Columbia at age 97. Howie was a Canadian hockey legend as a player, coach, and iconic broadcaster. He was a Royal Canadian Engineer veteran of WWII.
Howie was born in Kitchener ON and played on junior hockey teams such as the Kitchener Greenshirts and Stratford Kroehlers. He was recruited to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs but enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1943 before his junior eligibility was up. Howie enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers as a Combat Engineer. After training in Canada, he embarked for England where his training continued. Howie was badly wounded in England in1944 when a live grenade exploded beneath his legs during training exercises but he made a full recovery and went on to fight on the Continent.
After the war, Howie returned to Canada and was demobilized. He returned to the Ontario Hockey Association where he played one season with the Stratford Indians before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1946. Howie won the Calder Trophy as the National Hockey League’s top rookie in the following year and went on to win four Stanley Cups in his first five years with the Maple Leafs.
Howie was recruited to run in a federal by-election in his hometown riding of Waterloo South in 1951. Elected at 27, he was the youngest Member of Parliament at the time and held this office for two years while still playing for the Maple Leafs. He decided not to seek re-election in August 1953 and retired from the NHL in 1954.
Plagued by injuries, after playing parts of eight NHL seasons, Howie embarked on a new career as a hockey coach. A year after guiding the Pittsburgh Hornets to the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League in 1955, he returned to Toronto as coach of the Maple Leafs. Howie joined the Maple Leafs’ front office in 1957 as General Manager but left the organization before the year was over due to disputes with ownership.
Howie then accepted an invitation from Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood to work with that city’s youth hockey program. He moved to St. John’s in 1958 and, during his 18-year tenure in Newfoundland, he helped unite a hockey system that had been previously divided along religious lines.
Howie was perhaps best known for his 30-year career as a broadcaster of enthusiastic and influential commentary on CBC TV’s “Hockey Night in Canada” and as the host of "Howie Meeker's Hockey School." He also founded hockey summer camps in Canada and the United States that helped countless young players develop their hockey skills.
After 30 years in coaching, Howie retired to Parksville BC where, for more than 40 years, he and his wife Leah were strong supporters of Special Olympics and served as patrons of the British Columbia Guide Dog Services.
Howie received many prestigious honours for his work. He received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the NHL Broadcasters Association in 1998 and was made a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (1998) and the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame (2003). He was also inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Howie was made a Member of the Order of Canada in May 2011, received the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and was inducted into the Special Olympics Hall of Fame in 2016.
Funeral details will be advised when known.