Hockey

Give The Maven His Due and Put Him in The Hockey Hall of Fame Already By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, Your Honor, what do you think of when you hear the name, Stan Fischler?

Some, like MSG Networks Producer Roland Dratch, think of him as family. “When people see The Maven at The Coliseum or at The Garden or in New Jersey, I think they think like he’s part of their family,” said Dratch. “And he created that.”

“I mean, that was his gift from his popularity,” Dratch continued. “He went around signing books and even though he might love chocolate ice cream, if he heard somebody say, ‘I love chocolate ice cream.’ He would say to them he thinks vanilla is the best just to get them going and just to stir the argument.”

Credit Twitter

That certainly describes The Maven perfectly, but there’s another way he can, or rather should be, described and that’s as a Hockey Hall of Famer.

Now, before we get into the politics and everything else that goes along with this Hall of Fame case, I’d like to make something crystal clear. 

To be a Hall of Famer, you should meet the following criteria. 

  1. Career Longevity
  2. Impeccable Character
  3. Outstanding Quality of Work

So, let’s dive right in.

CAREER LONGEVITY:

If this isn’t a slam-dunk, sure-fire, point-blank goal, then I don’t know what is. My client, Stan Fischler began his professional career in 1954, at a time when the Original Six Era was still over a decade away from ending. And even though Fischler retired from television at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, he is still active in his coverage of the NHL.

 Between his columns on the Islanders’ team website, the Devils’ team website and on NHL.com, as well as his long-running publication The Fischler Report, that is an incredible 67-year career and counting. 

Gerry Helper, who has been a key executive with the Nashville Predators since the team’s inception, recently had this very thought provoking comment to make about The Maven.

“His coverage of the game and his reach have been unmatched in the history of the game.”

Let that sink in. “Unmatched in the history of the game.” If that doesn’t scream longevity then I don’t know what does.

“He has covered the league from the days of Rocket Richard, Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe,” Helper continued, “through Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, to today’s greats of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Austin Matthews. He has chronicled the game’s great moments and characters through countless books, newsletters and columns in numerous publications. His longevity and passion for the game has touched and entertained fans through his decades of coverage and insight.”

Your Honor, in the category of Longevity, I rest my case.

IMPECCABLE CHARACTER:

Character is something that’s hard to quantify. There’s no numbers or formula to measure it. Yet, somehow, we as human beings can still tell if somebody has good character or bad; just by getting to know them. 

While Dratch hit it on the head with his comment about Fischler being like family to hockey people everywhere, there’s somebody else who can and would like to speak on this topic.

“He has dedicated his life to the sport and his impact on the game is difficult to truly measure.” Those are the words straight from mouth, or rather email, of Paul Fichtenbaum, who is the Chief Content Officer for The Athletic and a Fischler-disciple. “Writing, broadcasting, Stan did it all, with elan. He opened the doors for generations of young journalists who would go on to successful careers in media. If I had never met Stan I would have been watching hockey, just not from the press box.”

Ah, the famous Fischler Internship Program. I knew we couldn’t go long with it coming up. You know, the one Fichtenbaum just said that Fischler used to, “open the doors for generations of young journalists.”

Anybody who would dedicate so much of their own time to training the next generation (as well as the one after that and the one after that and so on), clearly has the type of character the Hall of Fame requires.

Your Honor, if I write down every testimonial about Fischler’s Internship Program this trial will last longer than the March 24, 1936, Semi-Final game between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons that went into the sixth-overtime before Mud Bruneteau won it for The Wings. However, there’s one more person you should hear from on this matter before I rest my case in the category of Impeccable Character.

MSG Networks Director Larry Roth has worked alongside Fischler for more years than either would likely care to admit and over the course of those years Roth has seen Fischler’s character shine through on many occasions.

Roth: “My most endearing experience working with Stan, (as a Director) was his postgame interviews; especially with then Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. He loved to speak to Stan, who made him laugh, even after losses.”

It takes a special type of person to get a hyper competitive goaltender like Nabokov to laugh after losses. Heck, more often than not, players, not just netminders, want to be left alone after losses. 

There are plenty of times a player will utter a swear word or give you a no comment after a loss and that’s no laughing matter. By the way, members of the Jury, please raise your hands if this has ever happened to you while working as a journalist. 

For the record, you’re lying if your hands aren’t up. It’s nothing to be bashful over, it comes with the territory of the job. 

Okay Your Honor, now I rest my case for this category.

OUTSTANDING QUALITY OF WORK:

Oh, this is an easy one. Where do I begin? 

We could start with the 100-something books Fischler has authored; a majority of which were about Hockey. (There are a few Subway books too; just in case you thought he was a one trick pony).

Next, there’s the seven Emmy Awards for his work as an on-air analyst.

There’s also the prestigious Lester Patrick Award, which is given to those individuals who have contributed to the growth of ice hockey in the United States. 

By the way, since his retirement from television, Fischler has also been helping grow the sport of hockey in Israel, where he lives with his youngest son Simon, his daughter-in-law and three grandkids. You should know, the grandkids do indeed play hockey.

Clearly Fischler is intent on growing the sport. After all, he’s helping a second country learn about the game we all love.

One former Fischler-disciple and current VP of Communications with the Chicago Blackhawks, Adam Rogowin, felt the need to weigh in here. “His words and voice have narrated the history of the game for generations of fans across North America, growing the sport through a wide variety of platforms. His passion for the continued growth of hockey is contagious.” 

Your Honor, before I rest in regards to the category of Outstanding Quality of Work, I’m told one more witness would like to speak.

“Few in the hockey world have championed the growth of the sport as energetically and consistently as the Maven has,” explained the Owner of the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch franchise, Howard Dolgon.

Okay, Your Honor, now I rest my case for this category.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, before we get to the closing arguments, which will be contentious and plentiful, if it pleases the court, there is somebody here who would like to say a few words and that is The Man (Maven), himself, Stan Fischler.

Mr. Fischler, can you please tell the court what the sport of hockey has meant to you?

Fischler: “Apart from family, hockey has been my life; starting as a fan in 1939 and up through 1951 when I became Vice President of the Rangers Fan Club. The major turning point was winning a job as Assistant Rangers Publicist in 1954 for the ‘54-’55 season. 

“Now I was getting paid for loving hockey and the Rangers. That marked the beginning of my one and only career, as a hockey journalist. 

“It started in NYR publicity, moved on to The Hockey News and then to covering the Rangers for the NY Journal-American; later the Toronto Star and eventually to TV — first with the WHA Whalers and then the Islanders. And eventually, the Rangers and Devils for SportsChannel and MSG Networks.

“My wife, Shirley, became part of this hockey life as a magazine editor, author of hockey books and (through) raising two boys who, in various ways, were interested in hockey. In other words, it never stopped, even after I retired from MSG Networks a few years ago. And it continues today with NHL.com, the Isles website, the Devils website and books; not to mention two Israeli grandchildren who are intense ice hockey players and son, Simon, an avid Islanders fan.”

And Sir, what does it mean to you to be mentioned by your contemporaries as being worthy of The Hall of Fame?

Fischler: “I am, if nothing else, a realist. I am ever grateful to be able to continue writing hockey at age 89 and am ever grateful for every opportunity to write and talk about my favorite sport. Getting into The Hall has been a mere and distant afterthought.

“The positive comments — ergo: ‘You belong in the HOF’ — are encouraging and energizing. It means hockey fans — hockey people — have either read my stuff or seen me on TV or knew about my hockey work and appreciate it. That’s like an actor enjoying applause from an audience at the end of a performance. It’s rewarding to the mind and body. 

“In conclusion, I am most grateful for being alive and to work at my favorite sport and to have inspired the support I have received.

“Bottom Line: I’m 89, but hockey — as the song goes — ‘makes me feel so young.’”

Thank you Mr. Fischler, you may sit down now.

Okay, now it’s time for you all to hear the closing arguments and as I mentioned in my open, there will be some politics involved.

Of the many, many conversations I’ve had with The Maven over the years, there has been one nugget of wisdom that stands out above the others and that is the following.

As a journalist, if you’re doing your job right, you’re going to tick off someone. That’s just the nature of the job.

That ladies and Gentlemen, is the crux of this argument, for Fischler is 1,000% correct. A journalist — be it in print, on television or on radio, or even on some digital platform — is not doing their job to the fullest extent possible if somebody isn’t at least a little pissed off.

For example, a beat writer covering a team will likely, at some point, break news about a trade, signing, firing, hiring, etc. In those instances, especially if it’s a big story, the team usually prefers to be the one to disseminate such information. But by and large, that’s not how the media game works. 

A journalist, using sources they’ve carefully cultivated, has managed to find out ahead of schedule about the team’s plan and the first thing they do is either tweet it out or write an article about it. So, in that situation, it could be the team who is ticked off. It could be the individual person or player who’s annoyed. Or it can be any combination of people. But the important thing is this, somebody isn’t happy.

Another example is in a media availability press conference. A reporter might ask a question designed to elicit a thoughtful response. Guess what, players, coaches, executives, etc. they don’t always like to give those types of answers; especially when they’re trying to hide something. Again, somebody isn’t going to be happy.

The examples go on and on, but you get the point. 

Fischler, in his 67-year career has been in all these types of situations. He has asked many questions and he’s gotten many tidbits of news before they became public knowledge. So, by using simple arithmetic, he must have ticked off a fair amount of people. However, that doesn’t mean he did anything wrong. Rather, he did something right. And he shouldn’t be punished for doing his job correctly.

Now, these aren’t the only political situations I’m talking about and I’m not talking about government politics. 

By the sheer fact of being successful for so long, there are bound to be people who resent you for that. It’s a normal human emotion to be jealous or envious of somebody else’s success and opportunities. And again, in a career as long as Fischler’s there’s bound to be more than a few jealous individuals. 

There’s also bound to be some hurt feelings. Fischler tells it like it is and sometimes people don’t want to hear the truths he speaks or writes. 

“He is the Gordie Howe of his craft,” said former Fischler intern, Vic Morren (who currently works for ESPN). “One may not have liked everything Stan wrote or said but many could say the same about the way Howe played. One constant between them: you always took notice.”

Or to put it in the words of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and former NHL Referee Paul Stewart: “I read Stan’s writing and watched his presentations on TV because Stan was/is a fixture in the game of Hockey over many years. While I did not always agree with some items that Stan presented, there was always a strong hint of truth about the goings on that the Hockey Mafia didn’t want us to know.”

Okay, that’s enough about the politics of the game and don’t worry, no Mafia members are coming to “influence” your decision.

But, there are still a few more points I’d like to make before I put my client’s fate in your hands. (Hey, I never said I’d be brief).

If you look around the hockey world, or around this courtroom, you won’t have to look too hard or too far to find somebody who has had their career influenced by The Maven.

“Stan has launched dozens of careers touching on everything from journalism, social media, broadcasters, PR and even directly in the commissioner’s office,” said Dan Marrazza, most recently of DraftKings and the Vegas Golden Knights. “Although the public may not realize it, almost every aspect of how NHL communications operates, both internally and externally, in some way has Stan’s fingerprints on it.”

And that Ladies and Gentlemen, is nothing but straight truth.

So, now that you’ve heard Fischler’s credentials, I’ve just about finished making my case. So, please allow me to instruct you thusly.

With Fischler’s career being as wide-ranging as it has, there are three conceivable options for how you can put him into the Hall of Fame.

  1. He can go in as the recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award
  2. He can go in as the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award
  3. He can be put in as a Builder

67-years and counting worth of high-quality writing suggest The Ferguson is your top choice. But several decades as an on-air analyst say he’s more than deserving of The Hewitt. And, in case you can’t make up your mind on whether you consider Fischler to be a writer or a broadcaster, you can put him in as a Builder for his overall contributions to the game of hockey.

Now, please turn your attention to a few final witnesses who we’ve brought in to put a nice tidy bow on things.

Matt Loughlin (NJ Devils Radio Broadcaster): “He merits Hall-of-Fame consideration because of a brilliant career spent in print and electronic media. And no American-born content producer has done more for the game.”

Rob Taub (Former Fischler Intern currently working at The NY Post): “Stan Fischler belongs in the Hall of Fame because his contributions go far beyond the game itself. The amount of generations of journalists and fans he had an impact on is still felt even with him over in Israel now enjoying retirement.”

Leo Scaglione Jr. (Former Fischler Intern who has written for several publications while covering the game of hockey): “He has more knowledge of the sport than anyone alive today. His affection for the game has only increased since he first fell in love with it and when you listen to him tell the story of when he first saw a game and see the twinkle in his eyes, it’s not difficult to realize that his passion for it was hotter than an inferno right from the start.”

Arthur Staple (Former Fischler Intern currently covering the Islanders for The Athletic): “It’s quite simple when it comes to Stan Fischler: I wouldn’t be where I am now without him. So many established writers could say the same. He was a one-man media empire for so many years and was able to mentor lots of people like myself along the way. 

“If you were a kid like me in the 1970s and 1980s and you loved hockey, you had a Stan Fischler book on your shelf. With his resume and the list of writers he helped, it’s an easy call to enshrine him in the Hall of Fame.”

Allan Kreda (Former Fischler Intern currently covering the Rangers and Islanders for The NY Times): “In terms of writers whose words have brought honor to journalism and hockey, few covering the sport have contributed more.

“Stan has been writing hockey non-stop since 1953. He has written more than 100 hockey books, trained countless future hockey writers working across North America. The ‘Hockey Maven’ for decades covered the Islanders, Rangers and Devils for MSG Networks. If that doesn’t warrant the Hall of Fame, I don’t know what does.”

Jessica Berman (Former Fischler Intern currently serving as the NLL’s Deputy Commissioner & Executive Vice President, Business Affairs): “Stan Fischler’s contributions to the sport of hockey are extraordinary. He has mentored an entire generation of women and men through his internship program to continue to grow the sport of hockey. During my internship, Stan taught me hard and soft skills, but most importantly he believed in me and gave me no choice but to believe in myself. I would not be where I am today without Stan’s influence. 

“Our relationship is one of my most treasured – I have referred to Stan as my ‘work dad.’  Moreover, his identity is inextricably intertwined with the sport, and he has devoted his life to hockey; anyone who crosses paths with Stan is either an immediate hockey fan or wonders what they are missing by not being a hockey fan. I can think of no one more deserving of recognition for building the sport.”

Bob de Poto (MSG Networks Sr. Coordinating Producer): “I worked with Stan for over 35 years at SportsChannel and MSG Networks and I’ve never met a more passionate and knowledgeable chronicler of the game of hockey. Author, broadcaster, promoter, advocate, lecturer, consultant – there’s a reason he’s known throughout the hockey world as ‘The Maven’. 

“When last I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame a few years ago, I was met with Stan’s bearded presence, beaming from multiple monitors throughout the Hall, expounding on some historical nugget. It’s already his home, it should finally be made official!”

Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, Your Honor, I’ve made my case, you’ve heard all the witnesses, now go and deliver a decision that will correct years of injustice and make things right once and for all.

I rest my case.

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