Former 'Jeopardy' winner finds Canadian ban 'disappointing'
Former Jeopardy champion Eric Dolansky is disappointed with the rules that now ban Canadians from the show. (Julie Jocsak/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network)
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. -- What is a big disappointment? asks Eric Dolansky, who finds it a shame Canadians are now ineligible to compete on Jeopardy.
Dolansky, a Brock University business professor, was a two-time winner in 2006. He appeared in three episodes of the Los Angeles-taped show.
After winning the first two, he took home US$48,000.
"I really had a lot of fun, Dolansky said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I ended up doing fairly well."
While rules say Dolansky, 40, can't return as a former contestant, it's a moot point given the U.S. television show now excludes Canadians from competing on the game show.
This week, the show's Canadian host, Alex Trebek, confirmed a change in eligibility on the show's online registration.
Trebek said in a Monday e-mail Canadians were prevented from taking the online test "since the show must now comply with new rules set down by the Canadian government."
Canada passed anti-spam legislation in 2014 and a new digital-privacy law the following year. However, it's unclear whether either would prevent a Canadian from using the show's online system.
Dolansky applied to be on the show in May 2005, then as a PhD student at Western University's Ivey Business School.
At the time, there was no online test, with the game show website indicating a testing site at Toronto's Royal York Hotel.
"There were about 80 of us in my session," said the Ottawa-born academic.
He showed his mettle on a 50-question written test and became one of nine who passed that and a mock game of Jeopardy. That placed them into a contestant pool, with a chance of being called out over a period of time.
Dolansky got the game-show summons in March 2006 inviting him to California, along with a few changes of clothing in case he won several games during the day's taping.
As it turned out he won two, but doesn't remember much.
"You are so focused and in the moment. It all goes by incredibly fast," said the Oakville resident, who has been a Brock professor since 2008. "You don't want to seem stupid, to come across badly. You want to win; that's why you showed up there."
There was also a degree of camaraderie between the contestants, he said: "We were all facing this unusual situation together."
"It was fun and quick, and I remember not being too stressed out about the scores... you're trying to hit that buzzer and give the appropriate response."
As for the Canadian Jeopardy firewall, "it's disappointing."
"Canadians have done well, despite the somewhat biased focus on American history and geography," Dolansky said. "But that's something we all knew going in."
"It's disappointing other Canadians won't necessarily be able to get the same experience."
Dolansky is not the only Niagara connection to Jeopardy.
In July 2015 Bridget Ker -- then a St. Catharines Museum employee -- finished second as a contestant.
When contacted about the game show controversy, Ker, 34, was hopeful.
"I have to imagine it will be resolved," said the Hamilton resident, who now works for the Ontario Lung Association. "It sounds like they are (doing) this in response to the anti-spam laws in Canada.
"And it's more of an abundance of caution than anything."
- with files from Reuters