Meeker moved to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the late 1950s and spent many years building hockey programs based in its capital, St. John’s, while also broadcasting hockey and running a sporting goods store.
In the late 1960s, Ralph Mellanby, the newly named executive producer of “Hockey Night in Canada,” gave Meeker a tryout as a commentator.
“It was Toronto-Montreal coast to coast, and Howie started saying things like ‘Look at that idiot. There’s no skill in that,’ and ‘Jeepers, can’t any of these guys finish a check?’” Mellanby recalled in an interview with The Globe and Mail of Toronto in 2001.
“Everybody was stunned,” Mellanby remembered. “Nobody had ever talked like that on ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ before.”
Meeker was hired full time.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998 for his broadcast work during some 30 years with CBC, Canada’s TSN and NBC. He also received the 1998 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, named for the famed Canadian radio and TV hockey broadcaster.
Meeker is survived by his second wife, Leah; his daughters, Jane Tucker, Peggy Barbour and Kim Horwood; and his sons Howie Jr., Mike and Andy from his marriage to his first wife, Grace, who died in 1998; 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Meeker spent his later years in Parksville on Vancouver Island. But as his 90th birthday approached in 2013, he returned to Newfoundland and Labrador for a celebration at a hotel in St. John’s.
He was as popular as ever.
“They had 150 name tags ready,” Meeker told The Globe and Mail, “and they ran out in less than an hour.”