Actor Alan Thicke entered a cold Burbank ice rink Tuesday with his typical warm greeting.
The passionate hockey fan and his son laced up the skates for their twice-a-week, late morning pickup game. It was after warming up that employees and other noticed something was wrong.
The "Growing Pains" actor and hockey fan was playing the sport he loved with his 19-year-old son Carter when he suffered an apparent heart attack. He was taken to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, where he died at age 69.
The Los Angeles Times spoke with Thicke's son Robin Tuesday evening and he called his father “the greatest man I ever met” and “always a gentleman.”
“The good thing was that he was beloved and he had closure,” said Robin Thicke, who credited his father as being both an inspiration and providing support for his music career. “I saw him a few days ago and told him how much I loved and respected him.”
Rink employees and visitors said they were devastated.
"He would always just come in with a smile," said Kyle Stavert, operations manager at Pickwick Ice.
Thicke told employees that he felt a pain in his chest and felt numb after the warm-up, but appeared to be in good spirits when he was taken out of the rink on a gurney, said Pickwick Ice Vice President Darin Mathewson, who called 911.
"As they are wheeling him off, he looked at us and gave us the thumbs up, 'I'm doing good, see ya,'" Mathewson said. "There were tears."
Hours later, Carter Thicke tweeted a photo of his father and said, "Today I lost my best friend and my idol, and the world lost one of its finest. You are a legend and I love you Pops. Until next time."
Jay Lazaroff, a hockey dad, and his son brought flowers to the rink in memory of Thicke.
"Just to think that he was there with his son," Lazaroff said. "I just felt horrible. One of those real tragic moments when it's sudden like that."
Thicke's friendly demeanor wasn't the only thing players at the rink appreciated about him.
"He was a good stick handler and a good skater for a guy who is 69," said long-time game organizer Paul Lagloire. "Alan was a friend. He's been playing with us for 20 years."
Thicke was best known for playing the father in the 1985-92 ABC family comedy "Growing Pains." At the time of his death, Thicke was starring in "Unusually Thicke" with his son Carter and wife Tanya on the cable network Pop. Described as a "reality sitcom," its second season began Sept. 21.
But hockey was also a lifetime source of enjoyment for the actor, who was born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, a town of about 8,500. He grew up playing hockey and became involved in many NHL charity events, earning him the friendship of some of the game's greats, including "The Great One."
Wayne Gretzky called Thicke a "wonderful man, father, husband and friend."
"He will be missed by all, RIP Alan," the former LA King, Edmonton Oiler, New York Ranger and St. Louis Blue tweeted.
His love of the sport was appreciated and celebrated by those who played the game. Los Angeles Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille tweeted, "Alan was a great friend to my wife Stacia and I, a friend to the entire Kings organization, as well as a friend to so many in the hockey world. He will be deeply missed by so, so many."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement about Thicke, calling him a passionate fan who participated in many league events, charity games and awards shows.
"Alan always displayed humor and grace and he will be greatly missed," Bettman said.
Fellow Canadian actor Jason Priestley tweeted, "Shocked and sad to hear about the passing of my old friend @Alan--Thicke. He was one of the good guys in Hollywood. We'll miss u on the ice!"