My Pal Stormin’ Norm Rumack

TORONTO (Oct. 30) — There is no way to sugarcoat, embellish or minimize what I’m about to say. So, here it is: On three occasions in the past month, my great friend and former FAN–590 colleague, Stormin’ Norm Rumack, has tried to kill himself.

That none of the attempts were successful — thereby precluding a heartsick obituary in this space — is an incomprehensible relief. “Yes, I hit rock–bottom and felt I wanted to end my life,” Norm confessed when I visited him today at Mount Sinai Hospital. “With some perspective, now, I thank God that he spared me. I’ll get through this okay. I understand that I still have some things to accomplish down here. And, if by telling my story, I can help even one person to avoid or think twice about where I nearly went, the entire experience will be worthwhile.”

Here is the sequence of events as they occurred to me: On Saturday, Norm’s friend, Joe Peisich, sent a note, asking me to call. He said it was important. I was in the middle of writing a blog and had to work that night. So, I didn’t immediately return the message. When Joe later texted “it’s about Norm… and bad” I feared the worst. I was told that Norm had made three attempts on his life. There were no other details, except that Norm was recovering at Mount Sinai Hospital. The following day, Joe sent me a story from the all–news television station, CP–24, that told of an unidentified man “falling” into a construction hole near the Spadina Village (where he lived) and sustaining grievous injuries. Turns out the unidentified person was Norm. After Joe told me of the three suicide attempts, I suspected that Norm had jumped into the hole from a height, looking to end his life.

In fact, it was divine intervention that saved his life.

“I barely remember what happened, other than swallowing another batch of sleeping pills,” Norm explained. “I was in a complete fog. I didn’t ‘jump’ into any hole. I guess I was walking along Spadina, near my condo, and didn’t see the hazard. Next thing I knew, I was five or six feet below the ground, covered in mud and water.”

This had not been communicated when I drove downtown to visit Norm. As such, I was expecting to walk into the hospital room of a man wearing a full body cast. Instead, I opened the door and was pleasantly startled by the vision of Norm strolling toward me with the smile that could light up a dark arena. And, without a visible scratch.

“I guess I’m not very good at suicide,” he laughed, which immediately brightened the atmosphere and led to a long, warm hug. “Falling in that hole was a gift from God. Not only did I somehow escape with my life, but it served as a slap to the face. When I was taken to hospital and realized I had only a scrape on the inside of my leg, I felt so incredibly relieved. I’ve heard stories about other people failing at suicide and being thoroughly disappointed. I was the opposite. I felt blessed. I realized that God had somehow protected me from badly hurting myself.”


The unanswered question, of course, is what induced Norm to attain such a depth.

“I don’t have a reasonable answer,” he said. “When you get into a funk like that, you don’t even know what you’re doing.” The only excuse Norm came up with was nonsensical. “Both my parents are dead; I miss them very much and and my brother, Marty, is my closest relative. I somehow got it into my head that he and his wife (Judy) wouldn’t be there for me if something bad happened. That I had let him down and he wouldn’t love me as much anymore.” Which was the sports equivalent of Tom Brady worrying, today, that he didn’t accomplish enough in his years with the New England Patriots. Again… utter claptrap. No two siblings share a greater degree of love and affection than Norm and Marty. “I know… it sounds crazy,” Norm said. “But, how do you explain what happens when a person wants to end his life? Subsequent conversations have shown that my concern had no merit.

“I feel so grateful that God spared me and allowed me to hear those words of comfort from Marty.”

Another factor was left unspoken by Norm. Many of you remember him as the “Late Night Vampire” from the early years of all–sports radio at what, today, is Sportsnet–590. In fact, no person other than Bob McCown, in the 31–year history of the format, created such a legacy. Norm’s screaming matches on the air with passionate fans of the Maple Leafs are legendary to this day. When a particularly deranged caller made it through, Norm would play a two–word jingle: “Hammerhead Alert!” A promoter created T–shirts with the jingle and Norm couldn’t get his hands on enough of them. “For awhile, around 1993 and ’94, it seemed like half the city had one of my shirts.”

Other broadcasters in our key morning and afternoon hours — Mike Inglis, Joe Bowen, Pat Marsden, John Derringer, Gord Stellick — had made their fame elsewhere. Norm created his “character” from scratch and his remarkable, late–night run lasted for more than 15 years — longer than a highly rated television show.

When, without indication, it ended on a June morning in 2009, we walked around the radio station like zombies for three days. “How could they let Norm go?” we wondered. “He practically created this place.”

Nelson Millman, the program director that had to make the gut–wrenching call, sent out a note saying we had lost “the soul” of The FAN–590. Which couldn’t have been more accurate. Economics after the 2008 recession, however, indicated that Norm’s hours were no longer generating appropriate advertising revenue. An invisible executioner from above — the cowardly Paul Ski of Rogers’ management — sent word that Nelson had to cut a staff person. Rumack was chopped. Sadly, inexplicably and unfairly, Norm hasn’t gotten a professional bounce since that fateful day nearly 1½ decades ago. Which is a long friggin’ time to experience disappointment. He fell into financial despair and has been working, in the past five years, as a condominium Concierge. When my mother, Sandee, was dying of cancer in late–1995, I began to grieve and read the book “WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.” Norm could be the subject of a second edition. He deserves so much more than he’s received.

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“I guess I just lost my way,” Norm said of the suicide attempts.

On three occasions, he took enough sleeping pills to get sick, but not to die.

“I remember a horrible feeling in my chest when the pills began to take effect,” he said. “I realized I was a mess… and that I truly did not want to die. Otherwise, I would have swallowed the whole bottle and gotten on with it.”

What Norm lost sight of is the gift he carries every living hour — an attribute that can neither be measured by dollars and cents, nor acquired. He is simply the salt of the Earth; as kind, friendly and engaging as any person I’ve known in my life. Norm is the product of a loving, nurturing boyhood as the son of the late Murray and Sylvia Rumack. They raised him a mensch and he’s carried himself as such through his entire 68 years. That he hasn’t gotten a break in his professional life since 2009 is unfortunate, but in no way defines what is truly important about Norm. I told him today that I can count on less than one hand the people about which I have never heard spoken a nasty syllable — my father, Irv; my current boss, Marc Benjamin… and Stormin’ Norm. He will forever be a sports legend in Toronto and is recognized, by all who know him, as a prince of a fellow. He is loved. Universally.

That’s not a person who should consider ending his life.

And, it’s the measure of Norm that he is not hesitant to discuss a matter that might humiliate others.

“This whole thing has been a blur,” Norm confessed. “But, I’ve learned so much about myself in the past few days. I now realize that trying to commit suicide — and failing — was the biggest blessing of my life. I don’t fear going home and suffering a relapse. Or, a similar temptation. I’ve seen that the love of family and friends is more important than monetary or professional gain. Which I probably knew, intellectually, before I opened those bottles. But, I guess I had to hear it from others. If you want to know the reason I’m smiling today, that’s it.”

May he continue to smile for many years.


41 comments on “My Pal Stormin’ Norm Rumack

  1. Norm and I go way way back. We met on a train when I was just 18 and we became very good friends. Norm was gracious and kind to me; always the perfect gentleman and despite our lives being worlds apart, we both had a crush on one another. I will always remember laughing together and having such fun. I still cherish our lunch at the Windsor Arms and how time always flew when we got together. What he didn’t know was how broken I really was and how bad the PTSD became until I finally hit a wall. It was a messy, angry crash and my dear friend Norm never knew what was really going on when I pushed him away forever. Perhaps this message will reach him and he will know what an amazing, deep, thoughtful person he is in this world, and how he helped me so much in ways he cannot possibly know; ways that are important to me still. I am so very sorry I was unable to be a better friend back then. But I am a better person because of Norm and I am grateful to him. God bless Norm! (Joel 2:28-29)

  2. I enjoyed many hours listening to your radio show. It was a joy to hear your voice and lots of laughs as well. Your love of Wendel Clark and the rest of the Leafs was outstanding. I wish that you were still broadcasting. Maybe the Fan 590 will do the right thing and get you back in the broadcast booth. Good luck and stay healthy. You have many fans who still love you.

    1. Norm You were the Best. What happened to you is something that has happened to all of us at one time in our life. You are strong and some how someway yu we find a better place in yr life
      We all miss yr great personality

  3. Norm so glad you have close friends like Joseph & Howard. Always enjoyed talking in the pressroom before Leaf’s games back in the day. Keep moving forward and try to enjoy something each day. Howard thanks for the update. All the best Norm & Howard!

  4. Thanks for this information Howard. Having worked with Norm as my first job in the industry as his producer in 2004-05, it was was both an honour and a blast. I was a fan of Norm’s listening to his shows as a teen and it was an honour to work with him. I got to know the great guy he is and we had a great deal of fun at nights with Roger Lajoie. Great memories! Norm is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. God is looking out for you Norm. You are loved by many. God bless.

  5. I live in the building that Norm currently works in. He brightens the day of everyone in the building. Simply a wonderful guy who always brings a smile to everyone’s face. Bring up a sports topic and he lights up!! A true mensch who would do anything for another person. Norm, we all love you. We all need you!!

  6. Howard I am so glad you shared this. Norm thank God you are feeling better. You are a standout person who brings a warmth to the world! I always enjoy our catch-ups in the neighbourhood. I wish you well my friend!!!

  7. I’m 31 years old so Norms hey day was a bit before my time but once I discovered the fan I remember staying up late at night at our small cottage in baysville listening to him on my hand radio. I always remember thinking how wild it was that he could pull off that shift every night with even more passion than the day before sometimes even having arguments with himself! Him and Bob were the heart of that place and because of them I have probably had the fan on in my car basically every day for the past 15 years. A true sports talk icon for those who know!

    God speed Stormin’ Norman

  8. I loved my T Shirt, met Norm at Union Station , and he gave me one, that guy is top drawer. Always wondered why he didn’t get another radio job, he could be so frustrating at times as such a Leaf homer, but really entertaining, his schtick would work well in a podcast? Anyway all the best NR

  9. Loved to listen to Stormin Norman while driving home from wherever. You loved his stuff or disagreed with what he had to say. But – you wouldn’t miss it. Quite nice to look back on what was such a big part of memories of the Fan 590. Remember driving from Barrie to Sudbury and waiting to hear from Howard. M’Cowan, Howard, and Stormin were the best to listen to! Thank you 3 .

  10. So glad you’re still with us, Norm.
    It really wouldn’t be the same without you.
    You are a great guy! Intelligent, honest, humble and caring.
    Miss those Hammerhead Alerts!

  11. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful and supportive comments !!!

    I am so grateful for the kind comments here, and to my great friends, Howard Berger, and Joseph Peisich.
    , and want to encourage anyone else who feels they are being driven over the edge in a personal crises, speak to family member, friends, anyone who you have a working relationship with !
    Any of those, are exponentially better options, than pills or other potential tragic endings !!!
    Thanks again to all of you !!!

  12. You know this story has made me think that when you see someone be kind, smile and say hello… it really only takes a second to say it and it can make a world of differenceYou have no idea what is going on in somebody’s world.
    All the best to Stormin’ Norm.

  13. This was a difficult read. I worked with Norm quite a a lot during his second stint at the FAN in 2011. Howard hit the nail on the head regarding how friendly and engaging Norm is to everyone. It was an honour to work with and get to know a true Toronto sports media legend like Norm. Rooting for ya, Norm! And thanks for sharing, Howard.

  14. I broke in with Norm at the Fan 590 in October of 1997. Norm you were always good to me! Stay strong and make sure the Midnight Vampire lives on to create a new generation of “Hammerheads!”

  15. I have wondered through the years what became of ” Stormin Norman ” Sorry to see that the time did not pass well for you bud. Maybe Howard’s story here will lead to a positive outcome for you and I wish you well.

  16. Thanks for making us aware of Norm’s more recent life circumstances. While I was a fan of the character he created in the 90s, I was a follower of his recent work on a podcast with my good friend Billy The Greek.
    As a survivor of losing a loved one to suicide (my son Jake Eliopoulos in 2013), it’s my hope that your thoughtful public announcement will ALERT this Rumack Hammerhead how much he is loved, and how much he would have been missed had his attempts been successful.

  17. To realize that, despite what he’s struggling with right now, Norm still took the time, and obviously FROM the hospital, to send me a Happy Birthday message on FB yesterday….I don’t even know how to process right now.

    I do know it says something about the kind of person that Norm is, and always has been. Even in the wake of being in the depths of despair, he took the time to wish someone else some joy. I’m speechless. I’m bawling.

    Like many others, I have many memories of working with The Late Night Vampire at The FAN/Telemedia. I probably still have a t-shirt tucked in a bin of branded clothing from my broadcast tech/engineering career.

    Glad you are still with us, Norm. You and Howard are examples of how an often butally uncaring industry that focuses on profits over people and content can transition to totally different career paths that allow your caring personalities to shine through in a different capacity and bring help and comfort to others.

    I will be in touch.


  18. NORM, I hope you get a chance to read these comments and feel the love pouring out of people. You are a unique gem in this world. Your mission here is to continue serving in that capacity and bring joy to others in the way that you do. From a career perspective you have earned the respect of Legends, from a friend perspective you are held in the same regard and deserve the same accolade.

    We are living through a transformative and biblical period in history and we chose to be here. With love and blessings for good health I hope G-d grants you many more years to enjoy this journey.
    P.s. I refuse to allow my calender to adorn another person’s wall!
    Love, Betty

  19. Norm brought so much fun to my life as a young boy and teen growing up in Toronto. The world is so much better with Norm in it.

  20. Thanks Howard for sharing this…and your ears on…you are loved and we are all pulling for you…

  21. I saw Norm several times a few years ago, as my clients bought a condo in the building he was working at. Norm was so engaging and helpful. Both myself and my client were huge Norm fans, having listened to him so often back in the day, or night! Norm even allowed me to take a picture of him with us which my client’s wife took. She was not a sports fan, so it was hilarious how we were talking Leaf’s while she was so bored. Norm as you said Howard, a true mensch, and I hope he reads this and realizes how many of us, even if we are not his brother or great friend like you, care about him, and am relieved that his will to live and enjoy life is back.

  22. Norm is both an original and a character. He made great radio as you note, from scratch. I think our paths crossed a couple of times at events but never really sat down with him. The Fan could use someone like Norm these days and it would have been a better place, a much better place, if he had remained a fixture there.

  23. Like a pro wrestler, Norm made himself a larger-than-life personality on-air. To your credit, you have shown us the fine guy behind all that with this nice tribute that, fortunately, didn’t have to be an obit.
    It’s probably that same “Late Night Vampire” character that left Norm unhireable after the radio market contracted in 2008-09 as he was too identifiable with The Fan 590.
    Fair it isn’t but Norm shouldn’t forget he has the consolation of knowing it was fun while it lasted.

  24. When I interned at The Fan in 1994, I got the opportunity to produce a handful of his shows. It was such a joy and privilege to be part of. It didn’t last long, but I would see Norm in subsequent years and he remembered me and was always so kind. In that moment with him, you are the most important person in the room…or at least how he makes you feel.

    I look forward to seeing what is in store for the ultimate survivor. Love ya Norm!

    1. Jeff: You remember Norm well. He has no ego and doesn’t know how to treat one person differently from another. That’s why I placed him alongside my dad and current work boss among those I’ve never heard a bad word spoken about.

  25. Thanks Howard, for always being a loyal friend, and for the sensitive and thoughtful way you wrote this story. You mentioned Joseph Peisich, my friend for many years, who runs the “Fired Up Network”. He was watching over my shoulder the entire time, trying to discourage me from taking pills or harming myself; calling me several times a day/night to try to keep me from danger.
    Even though I did go further in those attempts, I still think that had it not been for Joseph’s constant contact and concern, maybe I wouldn’t still be here. Everyone should be so blessed to have a devoted friend like Joseph.

  26. I’m so glad this story has a happy ending, and continues to. Talked to Norm many times on The Fan that amazing winter of ‘93 especially when Wendel fought [Marty] McSorley! All the best Norm!

  27. Thanks for the heads up Howie.. When I was desperate for work after my severance I had to take a job with Frank D’Angelo…I was GM/morning show host, etc. You may remember the first guy I hired was Norm, who had cancelled his car lease and travelled two hours there and back on the bus every night. I knew he was desperate as well. I will call him.

  28. Howard you are an amazing friend and human being. Thank you for sharing and all my thoughts are with Norm and he makes a speedy recovery one of my favorite people.
    Kerry Goulet

  29. Norm is one of my favourite people! So glad the attempts failed. God bless you! Your days on the “Ray-Joe” will never be forgotten!

  30. Very sorry to read this story. Disturbing. I hope Norm Rumack finds his life worth living from now on. Life is easy on no one. Life is a grind. Every single day.

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