Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Loss Of An Icon

This photo of Alan Thicke, taken August 11, 2016 by Janis Ramsay, might be the last photo anyone got of the Canadian icon in hockey gear. If you haven't already heard, Alan Thicke passed away today after succumbing to a heart attack suffered while playing hockey in California. The long-time hockey fan was best known for his role as Dr. Jason Seaver on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains from 1985-92, but Alan Thicke has successfully navigated all forms of media - author, songwriter, movie star, talk show host, game show host, producer, narrator, radio, and TV icon. He was 69 years of age.

Thicke was born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario on March 1, 1947. After his mother divorced and remarried, they moved to Elliot Lake. Thicke went on to attend the University of Western Ontario at the age of 16 after he skipped grades four and six, and he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967. From there, he was hired by the CBC and worked under Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live fame. His big break came in 1980 when The Alan Thicke Show debuted on CTV, replacing The Alan Hamel Show. The show would last from three seasons on CTV until Thicke decided to leave and head for Hollywood.

The bright lights of Hollywood were good to the Canadian actor as he found parts on a number of TV movies and played several roles on TV's The Love Boat. In 1985, ABC casted Thicke for the role of Dr. Jason Seaver on Growing Pains which has been syndicated in 65 different countries. Earlier this month, when asked of how he developed the character of Dr. Jason Seaver on CBC's q with host Tom Power, Thicke replied, "I think I brought some of my own values, my good old Canadian, northern Ontario backwoods values to the character and, in turn, I learned something from what they were writing, so it was a nice exchange."

It was during this time that he formed a bond with a young man playing hockey in Edmonton that would last until he passing today. Thicke was a close friend of Wayne Gretzky who had fallen for a young actress by the name of Janet Jones who first met Gretzky when he was a judge on Dance Fever in 1984. With his playing days occupying most of his time in Edmonton, Gretzky would frequently stay at Thicke's residence while visiting Los Angeles to see Jones. It turns out that Alan Thicke's house would play a major role in one of hockey's most unbelievable days.

After Wayne married Janet in a ceremony on July 16, 1988 - emceed by Thicke - that received media coverage usually only reserved for royalty in those days, they were reportedly in Los Angeles and staying at the Thicke residence while Alan was in Norway. Wayne and Janet were acting as guardians for Robin Thicke, Alan's son, while he worked overseas. It was there, in early August of 1988, that Wayne Gretzky found out that Oilers owner Peter Pocklington had made a deal to send the hockey superstar to the Los Angeles Kings in a trade. Told to Sportsnet's Luke Fox in 2012, Thicke said,
I was reminded of it a few days ago on the occasion of the anniversary of his trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles (on Aug. 9, 1988). He was house-sitting at my house in L.A. the night he got traded. I was in Norway with my other son (Brennan), and Wayne and Janet were house-sitting for my son Robin (11 years old at the time). I called from Norway because I picked up the Oslo morning paper and saw pictures of Gretzky -- but I couldn’t understand the text, of course. And I thought maybe there had been a fire, a mudslide, a drive-by shooting, who knows? So I called home, and I learned Wayne left early in the morning; he got traded last night. He got the call at about 9 p.m., and he was gone by 6 the next morning. So we had to find a substitute nanny instantly, which is not as bad as what Edmonton had to find to replace him.
Needless to say, most hockey fans will never see something of that magnitude happen in their homes!

Alan Thicke has been a leader in the charitable world as well, and his continued work for charity hockey games can't go unmentioned. The picture at the top of this article was taken at the Hockey Night in Simcoe County event which raises funds for Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, Georgian Bay General Hospital, and Barrie Colts Community Fund. He was a regular at Wayne Gretzky's fantasy camp every year. He played in the Festival Cup charity hockey game in Toronto in 2008 in support of Right To Play. He was a major supporter for juvenile diabetes research initiatives, and he often lent his name and efforts to Make-A-Wish Foundation, Red Cross, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and many others. While most don't associate Alan Thicke with all his charitable efforts, the man truly believed in helping others.

When it came to his hockey loves, he was a long-time follower of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s and 1960s before switching allegiances to the Los Angeles Kings once he moved to California. He had a short stint as Maple Leafs fan, but (thankfully) that didn't last long. In a celebrity game, Gordie Howe broke his nose. In a separate game, actor Michael Vartan hit Thicke in the face with an errant puck, costing the actor five teeth and requiring 30 stitches to fix the damage. Through all of this, the man was a die-hard fan, attending as many Kings games as possible and bringing along new waves of celebrities to the games to introduce them to the sport. Alan Thicke never lost his Canadian roots in America.

Some amazing tributes came out of Hollywood yesterday, showing just how many lives Alan Thicke touched as an actor and friend.

The fact that Alan Thicke suffered his heart attack while playing hockey is no laughing matter. Automated external defibrillators should be in every arena, and every arena staff member should know how to use one in order to save lives. While there were no reports of an AED device being used, I hope the arena where he was playing has one and the staff know how to use it.

2016 has been an awful year for the loss of celebrity icons. Losing Alan Thicke this young just seems cruel. Rest in peace, Alan, and know that you were a beloved actor, friend, mentor, and Canadian. To Tanya Callau and his sons Brennan, Robin and Carter, I wish you all the best in this time of grieving. No one deserves this kind of news during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Alan Thicke!

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