When Ali Hasan heard the news that Alex Trebek had died from his long battle with cancer, it shook him.
“It’s still shocking, it’s still sad,” said the former Jeopardy! contestant. “I just froze for a second.”
Hasan, a Surrey school teacher, won US$69,000 in June 2018 during his winning streak on the show. Less than a year after his appearance, Trebek announced to the world he’d been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“He looked so strong even afterwards, he looked so good and fought so well,” said Hasan. "We were kind of hoping that he would beat it and live for another 20, 30, 40 years. But that’s cancer.”
Hasan told CTV News when he was a contestant, he got to know the TV legend a little bit, saying he was a proud Canadian.
“One of the questions I got Daily Double, and I couldn’t figure out the answer to it. I kept struggling and struggling with it and finally I blurted out the wrong answer,” Hasan recalled. "Being Canadian, the first thing I thought to say was, 'I’m sorry.' Alex Trebek, quick as a whip, just responded, ‘Don’t worry, hurt you a lot more than it hurt me.’”
He’s not the only British Columbian to compete in the game show. While Andrew Haringer was living in Squamish and a professor at Quest University, he, too, played in 2015.
“It was such a thrill to interact with someone I grew up watching, as so many people did,” Haringer told CTV News. "He had a wonderful, kind of dry sense of humour.”
The former Squamish resident won five games before losing a sixth, earning a total of US$98,599. “It’s such a special part of my life so I’m grateful to Alex,” said Haringer, “I’ll always remember him fondly as many will.”
Tributes have poured in from across the country, and there’s a growing memorial for Trebek in his hometown outside the University of Ottawa building named after him.
“His knowledge and his passion for knowledge and his inspiration in that sense is going to be his lasting legacy,” said Hasan.
He said it was also no secret how much Trebek loved hockey. “I think I broke his heart because there was a question about which team Gordie Howe played for,” said Hasan, who got the answer wrong.
“He was very disappointed that none of us knew,” he said. "I know it now! Won’t forget it, Alex. Won’t forget it.”