Canucks and Beyond

Canadians Trapped in Bangkok Include Jiggs McDonald

11/28/2008 at 4:23pm EST

Saturday Update: Interview with Jiggs McDonald available at FAN590.
Sunday Update: Email from Jiggs below, asking for your help.
Monday Update: Some heading home.

A Toronto journalist friend of mine sent me a startling note today alerting me to the news that Jiggs McDonald—a hockey broadcaster of many achievements including the HHOF (more details below)—is currently stranded in Bangkok along with 80 other Canadian citizens, due to the explosion of political unrest there in recent days.

His family is understandably very afraid, and his daughter Susan DeSimone wrote this in a letter (directed to another journalist) and passed on to me this morning:

We are trying to put pressure on the CDN govt. to get them out of there. Some countries are sending planes into a Thai military base to get their citizens out. So far, there hasn’t been much response from the CDN embassy there. The tour group has asked us to get the word out to journalists, etc. to put pressure on Canada to intervene.

The email address and phone numbers for the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok are noted down at the bottom of this post. Anyone who thinks they can help and who needs additional contact information for the McDonald family, please [email protected] directly.

Here is the full text of the release that Ms. DeSimone sent out this morning.

Jiggs McDonald, former NHL announcer and Hockey Hall of Fame member, and his wife Marilyn and approximately 80 other Canadian citizens on a 30-day Asian tour are currently stranded in Bangkok due to the political unrest there. They are headed into their 4th extra day in the city, with no end in sight and the threat of violence growing around them.

The tour group was on the final day of their 30-day trip and was scheduled to fly out of Bangkok on Wednesday morning. The international airport was shut down on Tuesday due to political conflict in Thailand. An anti-government group (PAD) took over that airport as well as a smaller domestic one and is demanding the resignation of the country’s prime minister. They refuse to leave until he resigns.

The government has declared a state of emergency at both of Bangkok’s airports, giving them the right to intervene and oust the protesters, but the opposition group has declared that they will not leave and will “fight to the death.” A larger pro-government group of citizens has threatened to take to the streets to fight PAD. And there is talk of a potential coup or military intervention. In other words, every day that the conflict at the airport and in Bangkok continues, the threat of these Canadian citizens being caught up in a violent conflict grows.

Currently, there are no international flights operating out of the airport. There are some limited commercial and charter flights operating out of a Thai military base, but those arrangements have been coordinated with the Thai government. The Canadian tour company, Expo Cruises and Tours (Toronto) have been in touch with the Canadian Embassy, but have been given very little information about Canada’s plans to help its stranded citizens. There are estimates of approximately 1,000 Canadians in Thailand who were scheduled to be departing Bangkok, but cannot.

There are limited alternate travel options. For example, trains and buses do operate, but PAD has been known to interrupt these services during past conflicts as well. Currently, EXPO does not have a way to safely move all 80 of its tour group members out of the country without help from the Canadian government. And there are over 900 other Canadian citizens seeking a safe way out of the country before violence erupts.

“Jiggs” McDonald

Jiggs McDonald is originally from Ayr, Ontario and currently resides in Orillia, Ontario. He spent nearly forty years as an NHL play-by-play announcer. He called his 3,000th regular season game in November 2003, and is believed to have called the most NHL games of any broadcaster.

He began his career in Los Angeles in 1967, and then became the voice of the Atlanta Flames in 1972. Joining the NY Islanders in 1980, McDonald called Islander games for fifteen seasons, including three Stanley Cup campaigns.

He later handled play-by-play for both the Toronto Maple Leafs on television, and for the Florida Panthers on radio. While McDonald retired after the 2003–04 season, he has periodically come back to do fill-in work for Florida Panthers and NY Islanders announcers.

McDonald has covered three Winter Olympics for ABC and TNT. He was also named a Foster Hewitt Award winner in 1990 and is honored as a broadcaster at the Hockey Hall of Fame

Canadian Embassy, Bangkok

Tel: 66-2-636-0540
email [email protected]

Update 2:57pm PT: At,

Ottawa should evacuate 1,000 Canadians stranded in Thailand before a protest which has shut down the country’s main airports spirals out of control, family members of a trapped Canadian couple said Friday.

Legendary NHL broadcaster John Kenneth “Jiggs” McDonald and his wife Marilyn have been stuck in Thailand since an anti-government group seized Bangkok’s two airports earlier this week, their daughter Susan DeSimone said.

“I am hoping the Canadian government will decide that now is the time to intervene and make a plan to get them out of there,” DeSimone told

Update Saturday, November 29th Interview with McDonald on FAN 590

Update Sunday, November 30th Email this morning from “Jiggs” McDonald:

Subject: we need your help

Please take a moment to call your MP…the Foreign Affairs Minister etc and beg on behalf of all Canadians stranded here in Bangkok or anywhere in the country…we need to get out of here. This protest is going to escalate today and violence on the streets is not far away. It’s time to get us to a gateway city from which we can return to Canada. We’re not asking for anything more than to get out ot Thailand and now. Canadians are running out of medications,...many have had their travel insurance coverage cancelled….some are running out of money and can’t keep paying hotel and food bills…others need to get home in order to have medical conditions look after. The govt has buried it’s head in the sand to this point.

Foreign Affairs must have a game plan, The Embassy here in this country is offering nothing more than lip service., They’re more concerned over not being able to get Canadians into the country from trade missions than they are in getting us out of here.

Please contact everyone you can on behalf of more than 1,000 stranded here.

Ken “Jiggs” and Marilyn McDonald

Note from me: This email was sent by Jiggs to several dozen Canadian and American journalists today, and I’m posting it here by request. I’ve also been contacted by the family members of others in the same position as Jiggs, very worried about their loved ones and all saying the same thing as Jiggs (and his daughter, whom I’ve been in touch with): that the Canadian government isn’t providing any support to help them leave Bangkok.

Since medications seem to be the most compelling, immediate emergency, perhaps someone with contacts in Thailand might be able to help. If so, please drop me a note for more information.


Monday December 1st Update: An email from Susan DeSimone with news of return—

On Monday evening in Thailand, the Canadian Embassy made an offer of help to a group of 78 Canadian citizens stranded in Bangkok. [...] They expect to be leaving their hotel Tuesday morning, 12/2 (the evening of 12/1 for us) to head to U-Tapao naval base for a Thai Airways flight to Hong Kong.

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