Veteran Canadian actor Alan Thicke has died at the age of 69. Thicke was playing hockey with his youngest son Carter when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Thicke was born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario in 1947. After graduating from Western University, Thicke began in showbiz with a host of writing credits beginning with commercial jingles for radio.
Thicke got his start on the small screen in Canada hosting the game show First Impressions in Montreal in the 1970s and his own talk show, The Alan Thicke Show, in the early ’80s.
He also worked at the CBC, where his list of show credits included producing roles on The Rene Simard Show, several Anne Murray specials and a variety special in the mid-’80s called The First Annual Hockey Shtick. He also had a radio show with Alex Trebek, a writing gig for The Tommy Hunter Show and behind-the-scenes work on That’s Show Biz, an early variety show conceived by future Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels.
“The CBC was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said in a 2011 interview with The Canadian Press to promote his appearance on a special episode of 22 Minutes. “After a few years at the CBC, when I finally decided that maybe I would try my luck in the L.A. market, I was able to go down there with a portfolio of experience in a lot of different areas.”
Thicke said the homegrown entertainment industry at the time was under-developed and he consistently championed Canadian talent. “When I was doing my talk show in Canada in Vancouver years ago, we had to beg, borrow and steal to get anybody in town,” he told CP in 2013. “There was no production in town. There were no movies being made in Vancouver. We got (big guests) up because we threw great parties.”
Thicke loved our country’s national winter sport and was pals with NHL great Wayne Gretzky. Thicke, who was also a songwriter and composed many TV theme songs, even performed a very Canuck number at the 1988 NHL Awards.
Riding onto the stage on a fake Zamboni, he sang all about the country, from its politicians to its celebrities and provinces: “In Canada, we are family, arms open wide, friends you can count on,” he belted out onstage in his famous baritone voice. “Canada, save a place for me. I’m coming home, leave me a light on, eh?”
In a 2015 interview with The Canadian Press, Thicke joked that if he hadn’t landed the leading role of the patriarch on the sitcom “Growing Pains,” he might have wound up in the hockey world: “I could’ve been driving the Zamboni for the Maple Leafs now if that hadn’t saved my life.”
Thicke enjoyed showing his Canuck pride on TV south of the border. In 2013, for instance, he appeared on a Canadian-themed episode of How I Met Your Mother. And on his recent reality/sitcom hybrid Unusually Thicke, which was set at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., he had Gretzky as a guest and helped his son Carter prepare for his Canadian citizenship test.
“I’m proud of that,” Thicke told The Canadian Press of his citizenship. “It’s part of my identity and a unique thing I carry with me is my Canadian-ness and we’re good folk.”
In 2013, the multiple Emmy nominee got a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto. Before the ceremony, he told The Canadian Press he felt pride in knowing that he was a pioneer of the country’s entertainment industry.
“I hope somewhere before I’m gone, as part of the Walk of Fame, part of that will be what I’m remembered for,” he said. “Because I was a proponent of Canadian talent and of the rules that insisted that we encourage the infrastructure of the entertainment industry.”
Later, on the red carpet, he vowed to continue to do whatever he could in his professional and personal life to try to make the country proud.
“We started in northern Ontario in a small town where I didn’t even see a television set until I was seven-years-old,” he told CP on the red carpet. “So when you take that moment and fast forward to what I’m experiencing today with my family here and feeling embraced by my country-that’s unique.”