“He obviously lives, eats and sleeps hockey,” Petraitis said. “He’s a passionate sports fan.”
Fischler just had his 100th book on the sport published. We Are the Rangers is an oral history of the team that tugged at Fischler’s heart as a boy growing up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Some of the books were co-authored with Shirley, with whom he lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (Their elder son, Ben, lives in Portland, Ore.) His subjects have included Hall of Fame players such as Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Stan Mikita and Rod Gilbert. Other books have been on coaches, teams, great moments and rivalries.
Fischler also has written well-received books on New York’s transit system and the old trolley lines in Brooklyn.
The epilogue of the new book tells of Simon needing a heart transplant in 1993. Fischler movingly writes of the Rangers’ then-coach Mike Keenan and then-goalie Mike Richter visiting his son – a diehard fan of the Islanders, the Rangers’ bitter rivals.
Unwritten was what Rod Gilbert told JTA: He also had come to the hospital, where he and Simon, sitting alone, discussed hockey and prayer.
That evening, an emotional Fischler phoned Gilbert, a friend since the player’s debut in 1960, with the news that a donor heart had become available.
“Call it coincidence, call it energy or whatever you want,” Gilbert said. “I was very grateful that he did successfully get a transplant.”
Told of Gilbert’s comments, Fischler says the visit came when Simon’s condition was dire.
“I did attach something positive to Rod Gilbert’s visit. Rod was basically doing some preaching, some talking about getting through his [own] medical experiences,” Fischler said. “When you’re in a situation like that, you welcome any source of hope.”
Another source was praying at the family synagogue in Manhattan.
The crisis wasn’t discussed on-air.
Viewers tune in to hear Fischler opine and inform on hockey – the sport he adored alone among his childhood pals in Williamsburg.
Fans strolling the Nassau Coliseum concourse during the Islanders-Bruins game stopped by the white picket fence delineating the set where Petraitis, Fischler and the broadcast’s other co-host, Peter Ruttgaizer, ply their trade.
They seek out Fischler to banter, ask questions and pose for photographs.
“You turn on MSG and there’s Stan,” said Kyle Hall, 25, after taking a picture with Fischler. “I only know things are true if Stan says so. He’s knowledgeable.”
Preparing for the pregame show, Fischler says, “It never stops being exciting because you never know what’s going to happen from game to game.”