‘Jeopardy!’: Why Alex Trebek Shifted His NHL Allegiance from the Detroit Red Wings to the Montreal Canadiens

by Madison Miller

The late “Jeopardy!” host, Alex Trebek, once performed one of the ultimate no-no’s for sports fans — switching your allegiance.

The “Jeopardy!” host was a huge sports fan. He made this clear in his hilarious disappointment and jokes with contestants who had zero knowledge of anything sports. He’d often bring sports into the conversation as well.

In an interview with Time magazine from 2009, Alex Trebek revealed how his allegiance with different sporting teams changed over the years.

“I was a Detroit Red Wings fan when I was growing up, because my hero was Gordie Howe. When he retired, I shifted my allegiance to the Montreal Canadiens, and I have stuck with them even though they have fallen on pretty hard times,” Trebek said.

In many ways, his role as a fan was a bit backward compared to his life at the time. For those who don’t know, Alex Trebek was actually born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada in 1940. A part of the reason he was so good at those tricky French phrases on “Jeopardy!” is because he grew up in a bilingual French-English house.

He became a naturalized citizen in 1998. Despite growing up in Canada and not moving to the U.S. until 1973, Trebek first was a Detroit fan then he was a Montreal fan. Regardless of his allegiance change, Trebek was always a massive NHL fan. As it turns out, the NHL loved the “Jeopardy!” host just as much.

“Alex was a passionate fan of our game and a true friend of our League. He always said yes when hockey called. We will miss him and send our condolences to his family and millions of friends and fans,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, according to the NHL site.

During the pandemic, Trebek got to surprise hockey fans and “Jeopardy!” fans. He announced that German forward Tim Stuetzle was selected by the Ottawa Senators. Always connected to his beloved job behind the podium, Alex Trebek delivered the news “Jeopardy!” Q&A style.

Alex Trebek Almost Hired for Hockey Show

Alex Trebek had a legendary mustache toward the beginning of his career. Some say it could even rival Tom Selleck’s.

Although Trebek was extremely happy and content in his 37-year-long stint as “Jeopardy!” host, he almost had a completely different opportunity elsewhere.

According to Sports Illustrated, “Hockey Night in Canada” considered making Trebek the host after the show fired Ward Cornell in 1971. Several people made the shortlist as a possible host, including David Hodge, who ended up hosting for 16 years, and Alex Trebek.

At the time, Trebek had been known for hosting broadcasts of horse racing and figure skating. The executive producer at the time, Ralph Mellanby, recalled watching Trebek’s audition tape with Ted Hough, the former president of the Canadian Sports Network.

“We’re watching (Trebek’s) audition and I said, ‘Ted, that’s the guy I really want’ … And he said, ‘We’re not hiring him. We don’t hire guys with moustaches!’ So I hired Dave Hodge,” Mellanby said.

So, while a career announcing hockey slipped through his fingers, his passion for the sport never faded.