Imagine living a dream as reality. That’s exactly what Stan Fischler has accomplished. Known as “The Hockey Maven,” Fischler has covered the sport since he worked for the Rangers in 1952. A inspiration to many including this writer who was one of those lucky kids who interned for him, he has done everything.
With the announcement that he’ll be retiring his microphone after more than four decades, I can only reflect back on what this man means to me and over 20,000 who interned for him at Fischler Hockey in Upper Harlem. He is a proud and dedicated person who’s always brought tremendous dedication, pizazz, pride and professionalism to each MSG broadcast.
Whether it’s been broadcasting the Islanders at the start or bringing his unique combination of humor and wisdom to the many Islanders and Devils telecasts on first Sports Channel and then later Fox Sports New York before becoming MSG or MSG-Plus, he’s always brought his A Game.
It hasn’t mattered which team he covered. Though more synonymous with the Devils and Islanders, Fischler had his share of Ranger games too. The thing about Stan The Man is he always has that schtick which works so well when you’re watching him. I think having the chance to see him up close when I was driving out to South Mountain at the old Devils practice facility in West Orange and later the former home of the Devs at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, was that I learned not to take everything he said literally.
That’s the misconception of Stan. My close friends didn’t fully understand who the man was. Heck. I didn’t either until I made the phone call that changed my life when I was fresh out of school with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management looking to break into the industry.
Being from Staten Island living on the South Shore, I made the long drive to Fischler’s apartment up on 110th street off the West Side Highway each morning during the week. Of course, I learned to use the Lincoln Tunnel and take the West Side all the way down before exiting and driving up several streets before making that right turn. Then it became about finding a spot which like my father, I became good at.
The first time I was buzzed up into Stan’s building, I can remember walking into this hockey cathedral that also included plenty on the New York City Subway being wowed. It was like being in a mini museum devoted to Fischler’s favorite two pastimes. Hockey and trains. A unique combo that also appealed to me. There was a time when I was a teenager that I used to go on subway trips around the city with close pal Ivan. We would embark on our long journey taking the S74 bus in Staten Island all the way to the Ferry before catching the local 1 or 9 train. In many ways, I could relate to Stan.
Even though I’ve driven a car since I got my license as a senior in high school at 17, buses, the Staten Island Ferry and trains have always appealed to me. On one old job in Jersey City working for Sports Ticker, I would drive into Bayonne and catch the light rail at 34th Street station and take it to work. I usually did a lot of reading always bringing fun novels I enjoyed. Something I need to get back to.
If you’ve ever interned for Stan, you know what I’m talking about. That apartment was like a library. He’s published so many books on hockey and the subway that it was truly mesmerizing. It’s amazing he and wife Shirley could fit all that and a computer in that place. But they managed just fine. It was amazing. I contributed my observations to The Fischler Report and helped write some bios on a Red Wings book. I still have some old print outs from 17 years ago on Igor Larionov, Darren McCarty and a few others that I saved. I guess you could call me a hoarder too. My old work is priceless.
Thanks to this man, I worked as a production assistant on Devils home games during the ‘00-01 season. What a experience that was. Even though I bled Ranger blue, I got to see how much preparation and work went into their telecasts. Seeing director Roland Dratch and producer Larry Gaines in the truck or at production meetings was always fun. There was so much to learn from pros including legendary Hall of Fame play by play man Doc Emrick and old sidekick Glenn “Chico” Resch. I’m glad Chico is back on the radio side with Matt Loughlin.
My favorite part of those meetings had to be at the start when Stan would tell a joke which would crack everyone up to lighten the mood. Sitting in, I got to see them go through the rundown on the pregame and game, etc. There’s one thing you learn right away. In TV or radio, every second counts. One screw up and things can get pretty hairy.
Even though I was a runner bringing old game tapes or highlights to Gaines for pieces or even being the Good Samaritan and doing coffee or lunch runs if there was time, I took my job seriously. During third periods, they would have me log timecodes of highlights for a melt. I don’t mean the kind that has to do with food. If you learn the business, it refers to reels they use for future reference.
The fun thing was I got to see morning skates at times and peak in on players from both teams headed into their locker rooms while also studying the hockey stats they provided us. Once, it came in handy. In a game between the Devils and Thrashers, I noticed that both teams were at the top in hat tricks. Something I pointed out to Resch. It came to my surprise that they used it during the third period. As I was logging highlights, it was Chico who mentioned my name on air. What a cool moment. I thanked him afterwards before making the trip home on I-95 to Exit 13 and the Goethals Bridge and then the West Shore Expressway.
Seeing such a great hockey team had its benefits. The Devils were defending champs featuring Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens. They had Mr. Devil, Ken Daneyko who now works as the color analyst on TV with Steve Cangialosi. There was Patrik Elias. The all-time franchise scoring leader as part of the famed A Line with Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora. Elias’ Game 7 winner with over two minutes left to beat the Flyers in the Conference Finals and his brilliant backhand feed for Arnott’s memorable Cup winner to beat the Stars are highlights that they showed during his jersey retirement in a great night last Saturday that blogger Hasan witnessed. Maybe one day Elias will join the other greats in Toronto.
What I admired most was how professional the players were after games. I got to go into the room sometimes and see them do interviews. That included the legendary Brodeur who would go on to win the most games and record the most shutouts in NHL history. I could go on about how special a group that was. Ultimately, they would lose a crushing seven-game series to the Avalanche in June 2001. A series they should’ve won.
For me personally, I owe so much to Fischler. It was also under him that I made a contact and landed a interview with ESPN for a job as a NHL hockey researcher on their telecasts. You know. Back then, they still cared about hockey. I was there from March through May 2001 and then moved to Bristol, Connecticut on New Year’s Eve for the rest of the ‘01-02 season.
None of it would’ve been possible without Stan. I have done some good things in sports. Even though I didn’t wind up staying with ESPN after just missing out on a Sportscenter Researcher for a permanent position, I had a great experience and time contributing stats paks for graphics that were built or referenced by production talent during games on ESPN and ABC. I also got to work as a WNBA researcher which I had no experience prior but did a great job and enjoyed my summer so much. I even got to come home to MSG for the WNBA Finals which the New York Liberty lost to the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002.
It really was memorable. Though some of it cannot be told following the game. 😂
I went onto blogging. Something I was familiar with due to my unique writing skills. Even though I never fully got back into sports professionally, I still am here contributing pieces like this that inform so many of my time.
Why didn’t I go for it? To quote favorite baseball movie character Roy Hobbs played expertly by Robert Redford in The Natural, “I sorta got sidetracked.”
Sometimes, there are more important things going on at home. I’ll leave it at that. I’m a family oriented guy who was raised right by two caring and wonderful parents with a younger brother who needed me. That will never change.
So now, I embark on subbing in my first year working for the Department of Education bringing all my experiences with me. I like helping others. So, it’s perfect.
That was always Stan. He helped so many into career paths. If you know him, then you are appreciative of what he did for you. Now, he’ll wrap up a brilliant Hall of Fame career with the remaining games he is on with the Islanders and Devils if he gets any playoffs. Though they’re well covered with Deb Placey and Bryce Salvador.
I’m only going to say this once. Not to take away from the job they’ve done during intermission segments. I will always love Matt and The Maven. Two of a kind.
Thank you to Stan for being real and critical when it was needed. All the best to you, your family and grandchildren.
A true legend.