UNIONDALE, N.Y. – As the Boston Bruins buzzed the Islanders net throughout the opening period of a game at the Nassau Coliseum, Stan Fischler was standing 10 feet behind the Plexiglas to the left of New York goaltender Kevin Poulin.
Fischler, a hockey broadcaster for four decades, could feel the rattling boards of forechecking Bruins.
There’s no place he’d rather be.
Providing New York-area hockey fans with a bird’s-eye view and expert analysis is what Fischler, 81, has done on broadcasts of Islanders, Rangers and Devils games. He’s had a love affair with the sport since he was introduced to it quite by accident as a 7-year-old growing up in Brooklyn.
The hockey community in New York has returned the fondness, notably when the younger of his two sons, then a teenager, was critically ill with a heart malady.
“The Hockey Maven,” as Fischler has long been known, has a love affair, too, with Israel. He and his wife, Shirley, visit there each summer. And their younger son, Simon, now 35, lives on Kibbutz El Rom in the Golan Heights and blogs on diplomacy while also writing for Fischler’s hockey newsletter.
Simon, not surprisingly, taught the sport to his children at the ice rink in nearby Metulla.
He recalls his father asking him when he was 8 to find Israel on an atlas. The boy couldn’t, so dad pointed it out.
“That was one of my earliest memories: This is our land,” said Simon, who lives on the kibbutz with his wife and three children. “I thank him every day for it because I am extremely proud of my Jewish national heritage. It’s why I live in Israel.”
Stan Fischler says his mother, Molly, lost nearly all her relatives in the Holocaust in the former Czechoslovakia and that helps explain why his support of Jewish causes “revolves around the security of Israel.”
It was his mother – “Malka Devorah, I love that name; it’s very lyrical,” he says – who introduced 5-year-old Stan, her only child, to spectator sports, a Brooklyn Dodgers game they attended at Ebbets Field.
But two years later it was his father, Benjamin, who would bring Fischler to his first hockey game. They were intending to see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” but emerging from the subway into torrential rain at 50th Street and Eighth Avenue, where Madison Square Garden then stood, the plans changed.
“Forget it,” said Benjamin, a big-time sports fan, in spurning the film, Fischler recalled. “We’ll go to the game.”
The Rangers’ minor league team, the Rovers, was taking on the Washington Eagles, and the bawling boy was hooked. After each Rovers game, Fischler would write a recap in his souvenir program. A hockey writer was born.
Several years later, at 10, Fischler first saw the real Rangers play. A sign in the Garden’s rotunda touting hockey as “The Fastest Game in the World,” along with the magical brew of indoor ice, sticks and skating, “really made an impression on me,” Fischler said.
Fischler would handle public relations for the Rangers, then work 20 years as a newspaper reporter before moving into broadcasting, first for the World Hockey Association’s New England Whalers and then the New York-area teams in the National Hockey League.
The opinionated broadcaster has won multiple Emmy Awards and, in 2007, the NHL’s Lester Patrick Trophy for advancing American hockey.
His love and knowledge of the game are apparent in the pregame and postgame shows he co-hosts for the New York area’s NHL teams on the MSG Network.
His producer, Glenn Petraitis, says Fischler has retained “the passion of a young person.”