Alan Thicke, One of the More Famous Sitcom Characters of Yesteryear, Is a Huge Hockey Fan With Opinions on the Vancouver RiotsJune 17, 2011 – 8:00 am by Michael Bean
Hmm, how to introduce this unique but outstanding interview. Here at SRI we try to bring you a broad range of perspectives and commentary on the most relevant, timely topics in the world of sports and entertainment. Naturally then, we have been looking for reactions to both the Boston Bruins’ defeat of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, and for better or worse, the shocking rioting that took place in the city of Vancouver following the disappointing Game 7 home loss. Amongst the numerous personalities who went on the air Thursday to share their reactions to the stirring Finals as well as the disconcerting riots afterwards, there were plenty of suitable interviews to feature here on SRI. But when we saw that Alan Thicke, one of the more recognizable and well-liked fathers in all of cheesy 1980s sitcom history had gone on the air in Miami, we smiled and knew we had our guy. If your memory is fuzzy, Thicke played Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist who played a lovable stay-at-home dad in the awful yet tremendously endearing show Growing Pains.
If you were too young to have watched the show during its run from ’85 to ’92, well, that’s okay really. You can read a bit about the show and even watch a few free episodes out there on the web. Really though, you just need to either be a hockey fan or enjoy a self-deprecating story teller with a great sense of humor to find enjoyment or appreciation for Thicke’s outstanding interview on of the country’s premier programs on Wednesday. Thicke was asked to join the program because he’s a recognizable Canadian born hockey lover, but even the interviewers had no idea just how extensive his love and involvement with the game and its stars has run over the years. Read on, you’ll see what I mean.
Thicke joined 790 The Ticket in Miami to talk about his reaction to the riots breaking out in Vancouver after the Canucks lost Game 7 Wednesday night, how the Canucks’ fans inside the arena were all class after Boston won — more indicative of the city, sport and Canadian sporting fans — Roberto Luongo’s struggles in net late in the series, his experiences playing and practicing with hockey legends like Wayne Gretzky, Cam Neely, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gordie Howe, Terry O’Reilly and others, how those relationships came about, how he was responsible for helping bring Alex Trebek to America while he was producing game shows for NBC, how he and Trebek went on to form the first celebrity hockey leagues back in the day out in Los Angeles, how those celebrity leagues have grown in size and stature over the years, how his intense love of the game has afforded him all sorts of cool and unique opportunities to mingle with the game’s biggest stars, and how he felt more embarrassed for the city of Vancouver than for the country or the sport.
What his general thoughts are of the rioting that took place in Vancouver after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Wednesday night:
“Well I think if their team was as tough and aggressive as their fans were in the streets, they would have had a different result. And I certainly would chastise the thugs and hooligans who gave Vancouver a black eye by running rampant in the streets afterwards. But I would like to point out in celebration of the fans who were in the arena, if you were in the arena you would have noticed they continued to recognize the excellence of the Boston Bruins and Tim Thomas after the game was over. Good sportsmanship from fans who know their hockey and appreciate good hockey, and in turn, the Canucks, the losers that they were raised their sticks in celebration and appreciation of their fans. And then we have the traditional handshake between the teams at the end, we always like to see that. Canadians are always proud of that tradition, and I wish we would have seen some of that in basketball in Miami last week as opposed to the total silence of the fans, the quick departure of the Heat, and no real sense of celebration, closure and finality to the NBA Playoffs until DeShawn Stevenson got arrested.”
On Roberto Luongo being labeled LeBruongo for his struggles late in the series:
“Well he certainly more than disappeared. He had not a horrible game yesterday, but very shaky for the three that they lost. To be outscored by the Bruins 23-8 when you’ve got the regular season scoring leaders and the big man in nets like that is a pretty embarrassing way to go out. As you know, the Swedes historically were regarded as not being very tough in the final stages of any playoff. They used to say that a Swede could go into a corner with an egg in his pocket and come out with it unbroken. I don’t know if that’s true anymore, and the Swedes certainly acquit themselves well in international hockey, but they got out-muscled, but Boston beat them up pretty well. I go back to the old days of Orr, Esposito and more recently Cam Neely — I’m real good pals with all those guys; I used to practice with those guys — and it’s been a long time since Boston could celebrate. So I’m happy for all of those guys.”
Wait, he used to practice with Cam Neely?
“No, I golf with Cam. But I used to practice with Orr and Espo, including in the old Boston Garden. And when they would come to LA, I would be invited down. It was kind of embarrassing — they would do the slap shot drill from the blue line, and I would remember on one occasion Gerry Cheevers taking off his goalie gloves and catching my slap shots with his bare hands. Pretty much speaks for my….You know, the Bruins were tough. They were known as the Big Bad Bruins. I was never a fighter, in midget hockey I got in one fight — I got so scared I wet the other guy’s pants. So nobody bothered me after that.”
In terms of his personal and professional highlights, where practicing with hockey legends like Cam Neely and Bobby Orr ranks:
“Very, very high. Through no fault of my own, through no reflection of my hockey skills, I’ve gotten to play on the same line with Howe and Gretzky; at the 1988 All Star Game in St. Louis, I actually got to suit up and dress for the pre-game warmups and all that. I’ve had lots of thrills through my affection for hockey. I’m a groupie, I’m a hockey groupie. It was the most fun I’ve ever had with naked guys playing was playing hockey and being in the locker room.”
Does he have a good story to share about getting drunk with Neely?
“No, not with Cam. I do remember…I’ve been around on a few occasions with some guys and you wonder if they would ever be heard from again after the night that we had. No, nothing scandalous with Cam.”
“That’s right up there. Most recently — meaning just this past February — I played in Gretzky’s fantasy camp (which I do every year) and had the winning team. And you know, Wayne played with us for awhile, which he did with the other teams, but to win something with Gretzky on the ice, that was a big deal. I had my nose by broken while I was on the ice with Gordie Howe and Stan Mikita. That was pretty good. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve lost my teeth and lots of scars because I’m no good. I used to be a better puck ducker, but that’s slowed down. I get hit every once in awhile now.”
Whether he hit any of these big name stars:
“No, not that they would notice I don’t think. I’ve been laughed off. I remember big crunches from Terry O’Reilly back in the Big Bad Bruins days for instance. And I played with the Flyers. You know, I put together the first celebrity hockey league back in LA, and that was with my old friend Alex Trebek many years ago. And we played exhibitions and fundraisers all across the country, and now it’s actually a big deal and we make money doing it because there’s many more celebrities playing hockey nowadays. Tim Robbins, Dennis Leary are in many of the events that we play on the East Coast….”
Wait, Alex Trebek? He doesn’t play does he?
“Well he did. This was back in the 1920s. I brought Alex Trebek to this country, I was producing gameshows for NBC and Alex and I were pals and we put together that first team. Michael J. Fox played a lot with us back in those days. So, yeah, we’ve paid our dues. In fact the last great Canadian riot — other than waiting for Justin Beiber tickets — was in ’93 and that was in Montreal when the Kings played, the only time the Kings ever made it to the Finals. And Montreal won the Stanley Cup that year, and I was there for the last game, and we went in got in the limo…I was with Bruce McNall, the indicted owner from the Felons Division of the NHL, and we got in the limo afterwards and the riots started. Guys were jumping on the hood of our car, it was a life-threatening experience. And these were the winners! So this is the last time a Canadian team won! So you can imagine how they felt in Vancouver when they lost.”
Was he more embarrassed for the city, the country or the sport when he saw the riots unfold last night:
“It was embarrassing for the city and to some extent the country. It’s a great city and they didn’t behave like this when they won the international event at the Olympics, so you wonder why they were such bad sports. But again, the fans inside the arena — the true hockey fans — acquitted themselves very nicely. The thugs outside, it was looking like a soccer crowd for a minute.”
Tags: 790 the Ticket, Alan Thicke, Alex Trebec, best sitcoms of all time, best TV parents of all time, best TV shows of all time, Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Champions, Cam Neely, celebrity hockey league, Dennis Leary, Gordie Howe, Growing Pains, Los Angeles Kings, NHL Playoffs, Phil Esposito, Terry O'Reilly, Tim Robbins, Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver riots