Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Let's Make A Deal For $50

My apologies to comedian Wayne Brady on this one, but I'm going Canadian with the lede image as Winnipegger Monty Hall takes center stage from his time on the popular CBS game show Let's Make A Deal. For many people, Monty Hall's lasting legacy will be persuading contestants on the game show to choose one of three doors which had prizes behind them. This led to an interesting probability paradox that confounded scholars for years known as the "Monty Hall Problem", but that's not what I'm writing about here today despite the interesting fallout from that problem that plagued one scholar. Instead, I want to look at the one year that Monty Hall broke down games for the New York Rangers as a hockey analyst on the radio!

Hall was born Monte Halparin on August 25, 1921 in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he attended Lord Selkirk School and St. John's High School in north Winnipeg. Hall was a good student who worked hard, but his love of sports shone through as he was a dedicated Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan and cheered for the local minor hockey teams.

Hall would enroll at the University of Manitoba where his work in theatre was secondary to his love of science where he worked hard to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and zoology after his dreams of being a doctor were dashed due to the university's secret quota on allowing Jewish students into the program. With Hall's application to the School of Medicine denied, he earned his chemistry and zoology degree while serving as the University of Manitoba Students' Union President and continuing his work in musicals and drama productions.

Thanks to his growing number of emcee jobs and productions seen across the city, Halparin found work on the radio as a radio host on CKRC (now 99.9 BOB FM in Winnipeg). While he found work at the Canadian Wheat Board for a short while, his passions took him to Toronto where he landed on CHUM radio in 1946. An error on a promotional material saw his name listed as "Monty", and he opted to work under his new performance name as "Monty Hall"!

Hall would continue to work in Toronto for CHUM and CFRB before moving to CBC television in 1952, but his run at CBC was cut short when the station cancelled his programs and offered him no additional work. Hall returned to Winnipeg disappointed, but not disillusioned.

In 1955, Hall moved to New York City where he traveled between The Big Apple and Toronto doing various radio and television jobs. It was in 1959 where Hall had an interview with Herb Goren, public relations manager for the New York Rangers, and the discussion went well as both men shared a passion for the game of hockey. Goren suggested that Hall meet with Les Keiter at WINS - a CBS radio station - as the station was looking for a colour analyst for New York Rangers games!

Keiter's interview with Hall was just a formality as Hall was virtually hired on the spot. Neil Best of Newsday wrote,
"'All I said was 'hello' and he just hired me,' Hall said. 'No tryout. I guess my qualifications were that I came from the Far North and played a little bit of hockey in my time. It was a dream job for me... Anyone who comes from there has hockey in their blood.'"
In an interesting twist as Best notes, the budget to pay Hall for each game was $75, but Hall was only plaid $50 as Keiter pocketed the other $25! Hall didn't seem to mind, though, telling Best, "I told him I would have done it for nothing."

While Hall only spent one year on the radio working New York Rangers games, he was part of a game-changing moment on November 1, 1959. If you're a hockey historian, you'll recall that day as the game between the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens where Andy Bathgate's rising shot early in the first period caught Montreal goaltender Jacques Plante on the cheekbone, opening up a large cut across the goalie's face. With no backup netminders in that day, the game stopped while Plante received medical attention.

Plante had been wearing the mask in practices and during warm-ups for a while, and Hall noted that Plante had been wearing prior to the Rangers-Canadiens game. While Plante was receiving his stitches to close the wound, Hall remarked on the radio broadcast, "It wouldn’t surprise me if he comes out wearing that mask," wherein the Madison Square Garden crowd welcomed a masked Jacques Plante back to the ice with a chorus of boos after seeing the netminder return with his new face protection. Undeterred by the Rangers' faithful, Plante's play seem unaffected by the mask as he backstopped the Canadiens to a 3-1 win on that night with only Camille Henry's power-play goal in the third period to get by him.

With Hall having called a monumental piece of hockey history, it seemed like his job as the New York Rangers colour analyst was a dream come true for the Winnipegger, but he moved to California in the fall of 1960 to host a new CBS game show called Video Village. It would be the start of something life-changing for Hall, though, as he developed and created a new game show called Let's Make A Deal that aired on December 30, 1963 for the first time. The show would endure through six decades of television across all three major US networks - CBS, NBC, and ABC - airing for 3200 episodes between 1963 and 1976!

Hall was always proud of his work as a Rangers analyst and loved to keep up with hockey, but I found it somewhat odd that Hall never really found a way to get back in the game following the 1967 NHL Expansion. While he would attend Los Angeles Kings games, Hall's work in and around the NHL never really materialized in California despite making friends with players and personnel of the Kings. Whatever his reasons were, I believe Hall made out pretty well with his television career, so maybe there wasn't a need or want to get back into hockey from that angle.

Monty Hall passed away on September 30, 2017 at the age of 96, and it was clear that he had a major impact on television during his life. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 24, 1973 and received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in 2002, becoming the third game-show host to receive the honours in both countries as he followed Alex Trebek and Howie Mandel. After years of raising money for a number of charitable organizations - estimated to be close to $1 billion - Hall was the recipient of The Order of Canada in 1988 and he was appointed as a Member of The Order of Manitoba in 2003. On October 13, 2007, Hall was one fo the first inductees into the Game Show Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada, and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Daytime Emmy Awards.

It's pretty clear to see why Hall was beloved on television and for his charitable work which he never refused to do. It makes me proud that Monte Halparin - Monty Hall - was a proud of his Winnipeg roots, and it tickles me to know that Hall was part of the one of the most important dates in hockey history when the goalie mask went from "odd quirk" to "essential protection".

Monty Hall's legacy will likely never be equaled, and I'm proud to call him one of my city's greatest individuals.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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