After NHL commissioner Gary Bettman introduced the moment by saying the pick would be announced by a “former University of Ottawa graduate,” Leblanc had another moment of panic inside the Senators’ war room. There was no audio on their computers and for a split second Leblanc thought: “Oh my God, this is running around the world with only video, no audio.”
Then he could draw a breath again as he realised the NHL had muted its audio to ensure there would be no background noise.
The moment came off without a hitch. And Twitter blew up. So did Leblanc’s phone.
“I’ve never been involved in a truly viral moment like this and it was just great to see the positivity that came from it,” Leblanc says. “One person said, I thought my kid sat on the remote control — I’m watching the draft and all of a sudden I’m watching Jeopardy!”
The Senators, of course, have had their share of negative viral social media events, whether from inside an Uber vehicle or a scheduled video segment. This was a dramatic change.
For his part, Dorion didn’t mind stepping aside to give Trebek the honour.
“We all think it’s fantastic to have someone like Alex Trebek announce the franchise-defining pick,” Dorion said. “I think it was something special.”
That it was.
And with his passing, the Senators joined the ranks of Trebek fans throughout the country and around the world who paid tribute to the legendary television host.
“Alex was a true and much beloved Canadian icon and a very special member of the Senators family,” said Melnyk in a statement.
“We will always be grateful to Alex for the special role he played in announcing the Senators’ first draft choice this year. For his legion of fans, Alex’s class and professionalism will endure as will his love for our game. Thank you, Alex, for your legacy. The Senators family and the entire National Capital Region will miss you.”
Outside the Canadian Tire Centre on Monday, the hockey club displayed an image of Trebek, wearing a Senators sweater, from one of his visits to a game here. His right arm is raised, thanking fans for their applause. Written next to the photo: “Thank you, Alex.”
Trebek, of course, has deep ties to Ottawa. Though he was born in Sudbury in 1940, Trebek first came to the Nation’s Capital at age 12, to study at a Catholic prep school. Not coincidentally, the school was situated on the campus of the University of Ottawa, where Trebek would soon be enrolled.
In 1961, Trebek graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy, while also cutting his teeth as a future broadcaster by being part of the university’s English Debating Society. His TV career began in Ottawa, doing news and weather reports from the network’s offices at the Chateau Laurier hotel.
Over the years, Trebek has been honoured with a Key to the City and has contributed close to $10 million to Ottawa U through support of the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue.
He is also an honorary president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and was on hand to open their new headquarters in 2018. The group’s mission is to help Canadians learn more about their country.
Remarking at the time that it was unfortunate all the Canadian NHL teams had been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Trebek quipped: “Thank God for the Raptors.”
In 2017, Trebek became an officer of the Order of Canada.
On social media, fans have been replaying their favourite Jeopardy! moments.
For fans of the Ottawa Senators, the moment was the night of Oct. 6, 2020 when the beloved TV host transported the NHL draft onto his own stage, with a video clip that will be replayed for decades to come.