Categories: NHLSports

Stan Fischler on why he’s not in the Hockey Hall of Fame


Stan Fischler entered the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Thursday, enshrined there after a career in sports media that has spanned seven decades and continues on today with a new gig at The Hockey News.

“There’s also a sentimental aspect to it that,” said the 89-year-old. “I was an original THN subscriber since 1947 and still have a bound version of those magazines and bound books for every season through 1962. The Hockey News is part of my metabolism.”

Nicknamed “The Maven,” Fischler has written more than 100 books — including his latest, “Tales of Brooklyn” — and has had a professorial presence in the New York hockey media as a television reporter and analyst. The Brooklyn native was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2007 by the NHL for outstanding contributions to American hockey. But he has yet to earn a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

We spoke with Stan recently about his career, the media legacy of his late wife, Shirley, and his thoughts on the NHL today.

ESPN: What did it mean to you to earn induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame?

STAN FISCHLER: My operative word for it is grateful. After all, I’ve been a fan all my life — still am — and the idea of me being honored for doing what I love to do is rather amazing to me. Not that writing a good story, or even a good lede, is a challenge, although it can be very depressing if it doesn’t come out right. But the fact that the Hall of Fame committee chooses to value a journalist for a lifetime of hockey writing and hockey TV work is impressive and, therefore, I’m flattered beyond belief.

My only regret is that my parents, Molly and Ben, are not around to be here because they gave me the scrapbook for my 10th birthday (March 1942) and supported me right through to my first paid job (1954) as a publicity assistant for the Rangers.

ESPN: One Hall of Fame down, one to go. Why aren’t you in the Hockey Hall of Fame yet?

FISCHLER: I guess I haven’t been around long enough.

ESPN: OK, but seriously: What would it mean for you to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame at some point?

FISCHLER: The Toronto thing is a very simple one for me. It’s the punchline for a good joke. This has been going on for at least 30 years — various attempts to nominate me, and it hasn’t happened.

So if they don’t think I belong … if I want to get onto the subway at Times Square, my MetroCard works whether I’m in that Hall of Fame or not. I don’t have to be in the Hall of Fame if I want to play paddleball in Riverside Park. It doesn’t stop me from breathing. They have a right to nominate who they want. But if they don’t want me, then they don’t want me. It’s the last thing on my mind to sulk about.

ESPN: Speaking of legacies, I wanted to hear more your late wife Shirley’s influence on subsequent generations of women in the hockey media. In 1971, she was refused access to the press box at Madison Square Garden because of her gender, and took the fight against that policy to the New York City Human Rights Commission to get it overturned. How important was that fight, and what’s her legacy in the business?

FISCHLER: If you were media back then, you needed a ticket to get in. So they sent blocks of 15 tickets to the media. If you were covering the game, you went in and you gave the ticket to the usher and then you went to the press box. But on the ticket it said: “Ladies not permitted in press box.” This was a Garden order.

Shirley’s battle with MSG-Rangers to lift the women’s ban from the press box was a landmark victory that, sadly, never resonated with contemporary women in the hockey journalism business. For most of the women who know about Shirley, they nod approval and enthusiastically commend her. But it never gets beyond that, such as nominating some award for her gallant move in spite of bitter opposition from the male journalistic fraternity of the time.

Since Shirley shunned publicity, she shrugged off those who suggested she get some publicity out of it. She had other things going — raising two sons, Ben and Simon, running a women’s bookstore the Village, and, in 1993, comforting Simon before and after his heart transplant in August 1993. She won an important fight, but her legacy has been significantly clouded by the fact that her contemporaries either have ignored her contributions or forgot about them.

I had pals who, after Shirley won the case, were mocking her. A couple of the writers, as she walked into the first press conference after the case, said, “Who is that, one of the player’s wives?”

She didn’t feel she was a pioneer. She felt she was wronged and wanted to make it right. And we lost four friends, and that was it.

ESPN: We saw you at the UBS Arena ribbon cutting at Belmont Park. What did you think of the New York Islanders‘ new arena?

FISCHLER: I was astounded. I love the arena. I think it’s classy. You can walk into the gift shop, and instead of Formica they have Italian renaissance wood tables. Little things that you wouldn’t expect, they have covered. It’s a beautiful place. Probably the greatest arena in the world for what it wants to serve.

ESPN: Who are your favorite current NHL players?

FISCHLER: Connor McDavid, because he’s the best in more ways than any other player. Alex Ovechkin, because he’s the closest thing to the explosive and immortal Rocket Richard. Mathew Barzal, because he’s electrifying with his skating and puck control. Adam Fox because he plays almost exactly like a favorite, Jewish defenseman of the Blueshirts at the start of the 1950s, Hy Buller, who was a second-team All-Star in his rookie season. And Nico Hischier, because of the manner in which he brings the best of Swiss hockey to the NHL. The Swiss style has been overlooked by many critics.

ESPN: What compelled you to write your latest book, “Tales of Brooklyn?”

FISCHLER: It was a complete accident. Working with Chico Resch over the years, I found him interested in my stories about my family and my growing up in Williamsburg. One particular story — about me, my Aunt Hattie and getting ice cream during a 1947 blizzard — appealed to him so much he’d ask me to repeat it.

A year ago, Chico’s wife, Diane, asked me to write the story and send it to her. She loved it and asked for another, different, story. And I obliged. After the third, I started sending stories to my friends as well. I got such a positive response I began writing them for the fun of it; and broadened my audience.

When I got to the 20th story, my lit agent, Doug Whiteman said, “If you reach 30, we got a book.” By this time, they were coming easy and did 35. And we had a book!

ESPN: What do you want people to get out of it?

FISCHLER: It was a rekindling of my youth. It was a chance to revisit some stories, whether they were fun or dangerous. The goal was to have something for my five grandchildren, to show them what life was like in the Great Depression and in World War II. About me drumming in a jazz band. About the time I almost stole a trolley with my friend Howie at Coney Island. About the time my mother was arrested by the state police. Which is a funny story now, but not so much then. All kinds of nutsy stuff.



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