Hockey, humour and homegrown pride: Alan Thicke's Canadian appeal

A prominent member of the famous TV dads club, Alan Thicke held a special place in the hearts of Canadians. Notwithstanding his entertainment world success, the actor, writer, composer and host never lost the pride in his homeland, his offbeat Canadian wit, his love of our national winter sport or his realistic perspective about show business.

Tributes for Kirkland Lake, Ont.-born actor and songwriter pour in from friends, fans and admirers

From his devotion to hockey to his ever-present pride in his homeland, Alan Thicke held a special place in the hearts of Canadians. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

A prominent member of the famous TV dads club, Alan Thicke held a special place in the hearts of Canadians. 

Notwithstanding his entertainment world success, the actor, writer, composer and host never lost the pride in his homeland, his Canadian sense of humour, his devotion to our national winter sport or his realistic perspective about show business.

Made in Canada television

Thicke's show biz roots were imminently Canadian: He got an early start in the late 1960s performing, hosting and writing for Canadian radio and television programs at the CBC, working with the likes of Anne Murray, Tommy Hunter, Alex Trebek and Lorne Michaels. 

A Canadian in Hollywood

That range of experience gained at the public broadcaster proved invaluable when he chose to venture south of the border.

"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 told The Canadian Press in 2011.

Once stateside, he proved a versatile journeyman, taking on many different roles — from comedy writing for the likes of Richard Pryor, Glen Campbell and Olivia Newton-John, to hosting an ill-fated late-night talk and sketch-comedy show (that nonetheless helped launch the late-night career of sidekick Arsenio Hall).

He landed his breakout role in the mid-1980s as patriarch Jason Seaver on TV's family-friendly sitcom Growing Pains, a comfort-food series that brought him into millions of living rooms and would become his defining role.

Joanna Kerns, who played his wife Maggie on the show, was the first cast member to acknowledge his death on Twitter Tuesday night, through a retweet of a fan of the show.

Tracey Gold, who portrayed his daughter Carol, released an official statement on Wednesday, as well as taking to Twitter to express her shock and sadness.

In her statement she said: "I thought we had so much time. I'm not ready to say goodbye. I am so honored to have been his daughter for seven beautiful years."

Even with his newfound fame with Growing Pains, however, Thicke never stopped boosting peers, up-and-comers and, especially, fellow Canadians in Hollywood.

Added to Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto in 2013, Thicke said at the time he felt proud he was considered a Canadian entertainment industry pioneer, and hoped "part of that will be what I'm remembered for."

He was always quick to say how proud he was of being Canadian.

"It's part of my identity, and a unique thing I carry with me is my Canadian-ness and we're good folk."

The best game you can name

Hockey was also one of Thicke's lifelong obsessions. A player, fan and proponent of Canada's beloved sport, he was a frequent attendee of NHL all-star games, charity and special events, and served as MC for friend and NHL great Wayne Gretzky's wedding to Janet Jones.

Thicke defended Ken Dryden's The Game on Canada Reads, and had even boasted he had introduced many celebs to the game

The music man

Lesser known was Thicke's sideline gig as a successful TV theme song composer (Diff'rent StrokesThe Facts of LifeWheel of Fortune and more), which garnered him kudos from the music world. Canadian super producer David Foster was a lifelong friend, including Thicke among the Canadian superstar musicians participating in his 1985 charity anthem Tears Are Not Enough and serving as an early mentor of his R&B singer son, Robin Thicke. 

Canadian content

Thicke stayed busy with movie and TV roles, as well as hosting gigs over the years. He had famously put his Canuck roots on display (for instance, helping son Carter prepare for the Canadian citizenship test on his reality series Unusually Thicke) or mine it for laughs (during his popular guest stints on How I Met Your Mother).

Modest and self-deprecating

"Instead of me being able to do anything particularly well, I did a bunch of things that were fun and I did them OK," Thicke told CBC's Stroumboulopoulos Tonight in 2011, saying he was content with his place in the entertainment industry.

"My career has been different just about every day."

Through it all, Thicke maintained his happy, wise-cracking demeanour — even at the Whistler Film Festival in B.C. earlier this month while promoting his latest film, the Edmonton-shot comedy It's Not My Fault and I Don't Care Anyway, and being acknowledged with a career achievement honour.

With files from The Canadian Press

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