Howie Meeker, former NHL star and Hockey Night in Canada icon, dies at 97

Howie Meeker, the Hockey Night in Canada icon and legendary personality, died Sunday at age 97 at Nanaimo General Hospital in B.C.

Meeker, who won four Stanley Cups with Toronto and was the oldest living Maple Leaf, was an NHL star who won rookie of the year honours in 1947.

A spokesman for the NHL team confirmed Meeker died earlier Sunday.

He went on to become a broadcaster and was known for phrases such as “Jiminy Cricket,” “Golly gee willikers” and “Stop it right there!” His work with HNIC earned Meeker the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award.

Born on Nov. 4, 1923 in Kitchener, Ont., Meeker played eight years with the Maple Leafs, winning NHL championships in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951.

He finished his NHL career in the 1953-54 season with 83 goals and 185 points in 388 regular-season games while adding 15 points in 42 playoff contests.

Among Meeker’s career highlights was becoming one of 44 players to score five or more goals in a game on Jan. 8, 1947.

Dick Irvin, a fixture on HNIC for 33 years, told the Gazette newspaper in Montreal in 2014 that Meeker was the first television analyst to break down the game and criticize players.

“‘You can’t do that!'” Irvin recalled Meeker saying. “‘See what he did? That was wrong!  That guy J.C. Tremblay should never have done that. Tim Horton made a mistake! Look at what he’s doing there!’

Off the ice, Meeker won the federal by-election in the Ontario riding of Waterloo South in 1951 but didn’t see re-election two years later.

In 2010, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada and inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Meeker, who also called St. John’s home through the years, ran hockey schools and camps across Canada and the United States.