New York Islanders honor their ‘Hockey Maven’, broadcast Stan Fischler, for his 90th birthday

(New York Jewish Week) – Stan Fischler, long known as “The Hockey Maven”, quietly planned to celebrate his 90th birthday on March 31 in Israel’s Kibbutz El Rom, Golan Heights community, where he lives together with his son, Simon Fischler, his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.

But a broader recognition of the milestone was recommended by David Kolb, Fischler’s Englewood, New Jersey-based business manager, and Jon Ledecky, owner of the New York Islanders, the National Hockey League team for which Fischler spent more than four decades as a television personality. broadcast analyst for Madison Square Garden Networks.

Fischler joined, so Ledecky flew him to New York and celebrated him on March 30 with a dinner for 16 at the Avra ​​Madison Estiatorio, an upscale Greek restaurant on East 60th Street. The next night at the UBS Arena, 17,255 of his closest friends sang “Happy Birthday” during the Islanders’ 5-2 victory over Columbus. There, he received a team-signed “FISCHLER 90” jersey along with another jersey signed by incoming fans, and ESPN interviewed him in the first period.

“I do not feel like I’m 90 – I’m 19,” Fischler told New York Jewish Week. “It was all overwhelming. I had one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life. I wish there was no other word than ‘grateful’ for how I feel.”

Even after officially retiring from his broadcast job at Madison Square Garden Networks in 2018 and moving to Israel, Fischler has not given much to getting older. Reporting, writing and maintaining friendships throughout hockey keeps him young, he said. Even as a retiree, Fischler writes six weekly columns: three for The Hockey News, including one, “The Fischler Report,” named after his recently sold-out, long-running newsletter; and one each for NHL.com, the Islanders and New Jersey Devils.

But that’s not all. He is putting the finishing touches on a book about the islanders, which will be published in October for the team’s 50th anniversary, and adds to the approximately 100 books he has written about hockey and another lifelong passion, subways and trolleys. In December, Fischler was in Denver for a dinner and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame; he also showed up at Park Slopes Old Stone House to discuss “Tales of Brooklyn,” a collection of his essays that sweetly evokes his childhood in the 1940s, centered in his family’s home at 582 Marcy Avenue in Williamsburg.

Fischler was so busy during last week’s five-day visit to New York that he did not manage to return to where the house once stood. “But as my grandmother used to say, ‘With a push [backside]you can not be chasonos at all [weddings]’- and my tuches were moving as fast as they could,’ he laughed.

New York Islanders owner Jon Ledecky, left, celebrates Stan Fischler’s 90th birthday, right, at a dinner at the Avra ​​Madison Estiatorio on the Upper East Side on March 30, 2022. (David Kolb)

Because the birthday celebration unfolded at the last minute, neither the Israeli son Fischler nor Stan’s eldest son, Ben, who lives in Oregon with his family, was able to come to New York to attend. Ben was named after Fischler’s father, who in 1939 inadvertently put Stan, an only child, on the road to hockey fame by taking him to a game in Madison Square Garden to watch the New York Rangers’ minor league team, Rovers, play. . For the 7-year-old, the sport was love at first sight.

Hockey also fascinated Fischler’s late wife, Shirley. When she covered a game for a Canadian newspaper in 1971, she was not locked into the press box in the Garden because of its men-only policy. She successfully challenged the ban and paved the way for women to cover the sport. The couple collaborated on “The Hockey Encyclopedia,” a 720-page behemoth, and several other books before Shirley’s death in 2014.

Back home in Israel, Fischler spends most afternoons at the Canada Center in Metula, a 45-minute drive from his home in El Rome, to watch his grandchildren’s teams train and play games. In recent weeks, he joined them in Bern, where two grandchildren temporarily played for Swiss youth teams. He calls them “The Flying Fischlers” and analyzes the boy’s and two girls’ skills that a hockey scout can.

Although his posture has become slightly bent, Fischler enjoys good health and his mind remains razor sharp. He continues to whip out jokes – some even pure – and stories of reach, recall and delivery that would be the envy of many artists at The Improv. After Fischler’s count, he told 21 jokes between dishes at Ledecky’s dinner.

As it happened, dinner was just around the corner from Sherry-Netherland, so I asked him to share an anecdote about the Art Deco hotel, which is older than Fischler. He certainly had one, as he was a first-rate storyteller and enthusiast of his hometown history, who used to lead walks in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He did not disappoint: Fischler pointed out that Jack Benny occasionally mentioned the hotel in his legendary radio program. It made him recount the encounter with the Jewish comedian at a dinner with Sardis’ honorary actress Carol Channing around 1970. Channing, he added, was his “best and most pleasant” interviewee ever.

During one of our FaceTime conversations, son Simon interrupted us to speak for his father’s induction into the Toronto-based Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor that has yet to go to Fischler, who has won several Emmy Awards as well as the NHL’s Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to American hockey. Several of Fischler’s comrades have lobbied for his introduction, but Hockey Maven quickly dismissed such talk.

“If they do not want me, they will not want me,” he said with a semi-whirl. “As Groucho Marx said, ‘I do not want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.’ ”

Fischler is welcome almost everywhere else – especially in hockey circles. During his trip to New York last week, he lived first with Kolb, who had started as his intern, and then with Matt Fineman, one of his former MSG producers. Both families were former hosts of Fischler for Sabbath dinners and holidays – last Hanukkah Kolb Fischler bought a tallit (prayer shawl) as a gift, which Fischler davens (prays) every morning, often after asking people for their names, for whose good health he can prayer God.

“We got him a new one,” Kolb said of the gift, noting that Fischler’s old tallit “frayed.” Fortunately, at the age of 90, its bearer is not.

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