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December 28, 2016 | 6:00pm ET
Alan Thicke: Rest in Peace, and Thank You
By Josh Brewster

ANAHEIM, CA -- The sport of hockey owes a debt of gratitude to television star Alan Thicke, who was a prominent celebrity hockey fan for decades.

Born March 1, 1947 in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Thicke passed away on Tuesday, December 13, after collapsing on the ice at Pickwick Gardens in Burbank, California. He was 69.

Thicke suffered a ruptured aorta while on the ice with his son, Carter, nearby. He died a couple of hours later. A memorial service was held for family and friends last Sunday at his home in Carpenteria, California, near Santa Barbara.

When Thicke made his way to Los Angeles as a young adult, the sport smoothed his transition to his new home.

“When I first came to this country I was about 23 years old,” Thicke told me during a 2014 appearance on Duck Calls, the Ducks’ postgame radio show. “I arrived during hockey season, and was staying at a motel, was kind of lost and at loose ends and wanted to feel some kind of familiarity so I look in the paper and I see there’s a hockey game. I went down to the Forum and saw the Kings game. In the program I noticed that there were a couple of guys that I had played with -- or, I was at the end of the bench (laughs) but there was a couple of guys (I knew) on the roster so I went down and visited the dressing room and reconnected with a couple of fellas that I had known who were now on the Kings roster and they became my first friends in LA and that’s just the kind of friendship that has persisted and I have followed the Kings loyally ever since then. When the Ducks arrived in town, I started doing that, too.”

Thicke was a well-regarded television host in Canada through the 70s and early 80s and worked on a wide variety of projects. In 1977, Norman Lear hired Thicke to produce the groundbreaking talk show parody Fernwood 2 Night. From 1983 to 1984 he hosted Thicke of the Night, a syndicated late-night show created to compete with David Letterman.

Later, he enjoyed a major breakthrough as star of the sitcom Growing Pains, which ran for seven seasons (1985 to 1992) on ABC, launching the careers of Kirk Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio. Already a celebrity, the show launched Thicke to major international stardom.

His love for hockey sustained him and he played the game often, a fixture a Southern California rinks as well as at many charity games.

Thicke’s involvement with the game should be remembered fondly. Well before the NHL was readily available on a nightly basis on cable, before the digital age delivered on-demand hockey whenever fans desired, Thicke was there for the NHL and was a great ambassador for the game.

Thicke counted innumerable hockey players as friends, including The Great One. One of Thicke’s most famous stories involved the 1988 trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings.

“I was off in Norway with one of my sons,” Thicke remembered. “Wayne was house sitting at my home in Toluca Lake and he and Craig Simpson and Janet (Jones) were visiting and he got the phone call. He was house sitting and babysitting. My son Robin was 10 years old at the time. The call came in to Robin and he said, ‘I’m sorry, Wayne’s sleeping,’ and (former Kings owner) Bruce McNall said, ‘well then, wake him up!’ Robin, although he never played the game, always felt a part of hockey history, I think.”

Robin, Thicke’s son by former spouse Gloria Loring, has, since witnessing the biggest trade in hockey history, achieved major success as a singer and songwriter. Thicke is also survived by son Brennan (also with Loring) and Carter (with second wife Gina Tolleson). At the time of his passing, Thicke was married to model Tanya Callau. The couple married in 1999.

Thicke was a man of good humor.

“In the old days,” Thicke said, laughing as he contemplated his many years around the game, “I was friends with the players and then as you get a little older it’s the coaches you know who have moved up from the players’ ranks and then you know the owners and finally, you know the commissioner. Your demographic increases in terms of the friendships you maintain over the years.”

A proud Canadian, Thicke was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto in 2013.

“It’s not just the country’s reputation in the hockey world, it’s the country’s reputation in the universe,” Thicke said shortly after Canada won Olympic Gold Medal in 2014. “This is what Canada is, that’s what we do, that’s what we breathe in and out, so yeah, (we) do take it very seriously. There’s no such thing as silver or bronze for Canadians as far as hockey’s concerned.”

Thicke stayed current, both as a player at rec leagues and charity events, and as a fan. He called Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty “as entertaining as anybody in the business” and considered himself a fan of SoCal notables Jeff Carter, Jon Quick, Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Fowler and Corey Perry.

“I hope that our pros are in the Olympics,” Thicke said in 2014. “That’s not a given, that’s a sure thing, and I know there’s a lot of feelings pro and con about how they risk their NHL seasons or careers with injury by participating, but I think I would speak for most fans when I say we would sure miss it if the pros weren’t in the Olympics next time around.”

"Alan was the on-ice father figure to us all," Cuba Gooding told Ken Baker of E! Entertainment Television. "It is said that the way you play the game tells us how you are as a man in life. Alan played the game of hockey with honor and a joy that was always present in his smile. I will love and miss him for the rest of my days."

Thicke gave selflessly to diabetes and juvenile diabetes charities, even starting a charitable organization with the help from his friends in and outside the game.

The National Hockey League and the game itself will have few friends now or in the future who loved the game as deeply and publicly as Thicke.

Rest in Peace.

Josh Brewster is a Columnist for The Fourth Period and the host of Anaheim Ducks' postgame radio show since 2006. Be sure to follow him on Twitter.

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