They don’t call Stan Fischler “the Maven” for nothing. As the resident hockey expert who has served as a reporter and analyst for MSG Networks since 1975, Fischler’s obsession with the world’s fastest sport dates back to when he attended his first game at the old Madison Square Garden as a 7-year-old with his father. It was at this double-header minor league hockey tilt featuring the Rangers’ farm team, The Rovers, where the die was cast for this life-long love affair. So imagine the seismic shocks that emanated when the 86-year-old media stalwart recently announced that the 2017-18 season would find him retiring from doing all Islanders home games. The main part of the equation for this decision came down to the Brooklyn native wanting to see more of his sons Ben and Simon and their broods. The duo reside in Portland, OR, and Israel respectively. Having lost his wife Shirley back in 2014 after 38 years of marriage, Fischler looks to spend more time with his existing family.
“I was blessed and very grateful to be able to do this for so long, but I decided that the time has come. I’m 86. I still love the business and still feel very good about my still writing and doing less, but still doing some TV, that will enable me to do both—be with the family and also keep my hand in hockey,” he explained. “I never want to not be doing hockey, because it almost comes with breathing. I was thinking about what I was going to write as the preview for Game 4. It’s almost been a reflex action since I started going to hockey games, which was 1939. What I’m hoping to do is have a better and more equitable balance with family and hockey.”
While the former, by way of five grandchildren and their parents, rank as Fischler’s greatest accomplishments, his professional career is a staggering string of accomplishments. He’s written or co-written upwards of 100 books. And while the bulk are about the sport of hockey focused on players from the Rangers and Islanders along with other titans of the game including Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Gordie Howe and Don Cherry, Fischler has also penned tomes on the subway, baseball and the Borscht Belt. But hockey was first and foremost what has always been the driving force in his life, dating back to that first game and the positive aftermath he experienced in school the next day at Show & Tell.
“The first game my father took me to in 1939 was a very exciting game. I remember the next day I went to school and the teacher asked us to do Show & Tell and she called on me,” he recalled. “I did [something on] the hockey goalie and she gave me an ‘A’ for that and hockey was my thing forever after that. Getting an ‘A’ for Show & Tell was like getting paid to do hockey later. It was special.”
Despite growing up a Maple Leafs fan, Fischler changed allegiances to the Rangers in the early 1950s with the idea that it might help advance his career. He wound up becoming a member of the fan club, eventually rising to vice president and one of the main contributors to Rangers Review, the fan club newsletter. It was here that he started interacting and interviewing players. It all played into his getting hired to be a publicist by the team after graduating from Brooklyn College in 1954. It was a job he held until becoming a newspaperman for a string of outlets including the Brooklyn Eagle, New York Journal-American and the Toronto Star. A broadcast opportunity working for the then-New England Whalers in the now-defunct World Hockey Association in 1973 eventually led to him being hired by the New York Islanders in the same role in 1975. It’s a time he looks back at fondly, particularly when it comes to the notion of expansion.
“If it wasn’t for expansion, I wouldn’t have been doing the Islanders stuff. So expansion has created a lot of employment and a lot of enjoyment. How can you knock expansion when the Vegas team is in the playoffs?,” he asked.
Retirement may be in the cards for Fischler, but fans of the Maven don’t have to worry about him completely going off the grid. He’ll still be popping up periodically as the sport that’s given him so much throughout his life is the octogenarian’s raison d’être.
“I never said I was retiring from hockey or from journalism, because if there’s anything that’s helped keep me young, it’s hockey. I’ve always felt the adrenaline rush that I get, not only from being at the games and talking to players, but it also goes over into the business of writing,” he pointed out. “It’s an exciting thing to figure out the lead, doing stuff for the website or even tweeting. Getting it right, getting it readable or capturing the audience when I’m on TV—it’s all part of an exciting business. I always felt that’s what’s kept me on the young side.”
Stay tuned for Stan Fischler’s favorite hockey players.