Brooklyn’s ‘Hockey Maven’ talks fame, fortune and Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson and Wayne Gretzky are a few of the legendary names that “The Hockey Maven” Stan Fischler has met, interviewed and covered over the course of his illustrious career as a sports writer, author and broadcaster.
On Monday, the Brooklyn native, Brooklyn College (BC) alumnus and former reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle came back to his alma mater to provide a fascinating lecture for the students on the topic of “How Brooklyn College Made Me a Success as Writer and Broadcaster.”
The seven-time Emmy Award-winner and author of 100 books referred to the aforementioned names as “legends,” but Fischler himself deserves to be in that same category.
Since graduating from BC in 1954, Fischler, 84, has not only become a prestigious sports journalist, but he is also a connoisseur of the New York City subway system.
He has written six books on the subway, including his most famous, “The Subway and the City.” His byline has appeared in a plethora of publications, such as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Sport Magazine, Newsweek and Hockey Digest, to name a few.
“There’s no question,” said Fischler, “that I never would have achieved any kind of success in the communications business had it not been for my four years at BC. My experience on the school paper, the Kingsman, covering the Brooklyn soccer team when we won the Met Championship in 1951 was the springboard for my sports writing career.”
Fischer has also, for more than 40 years, been an esteemed broadcaster for the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
In BC’s Student Union Building, Fischler fielded questions from students, told hilarious anecdotes, reminisced about his time in college and gave advice to up-and-coming journalists.
Fischler spoke on several topics such as how covering BC’s soccer team propelled him into sports journalism, how reporting on non-sports topics helped his sports writing career and how sports has changed drastically over the years.
Following his lecture, students swarmed the “Hockey Maven” to take pictures with the man they’ve so often seen on television and heard on the radio.
Fischler spewed out sports knowledge for two hours, asked trivia questions and handed out a signed book.
“As a Brooklyn College graduate, giant in the field of broadcasting and media, a prolific writer and a man who loves the borough of Brooklyn, Stan Fischler was the perfect and obvious choice to kick off our first sports business industry leader event,” BC Sports Management Professor Neil Malvone told the Eagle. “His story of beginning at Brooklyn College and succeeding through hard work and grim determination resonated with the students in the sports management program.
“His participation at our event will raise awareness and give credibility for the growth of our program as he continues to have a huge presence on local and national hockey broadcasts.”
Fischler’s most important advice to the students was to “stick with it,” maintain a sense of humor and “to do what’s right and do it now.”
“There’s something special about the people who come [to BC],” said Fischler, “and it comes down to the four letter word ‘Grit.’”
Other advice that the hockey historian imparted on the students was to not write too long and to tell stories that people don’t want to put down.
He stressed the importance of conducting good interviews: not asking yes-or-no questions and allowing interviewees time to think. He urged his pupils to never use the words “awesome,” “good,” or “like,” to keep a scrapbook of their favorite writers and to read as much as possible.
He told the students, “The most exciting thing is to think of the lede for the next story.”
Fischler reminisced about his time covering the Brooklyn Dodgers, told the students that Pee Wee Reese was the first Dodger to befriend Jackie Robinson and revealed that baseball was actually Jackie Robinson’s weakest sport.
“Robinson wasn’t all that crazy about [baseball], but he was a natural talent,” he said.
Fischler recalled that when Gil Hodges was in a 0 for 21 slump against the Yankees, his speech class professor at BC would have the entire class say a prayer for Hodges before every lesson.
“All of the Dodgers either lived in Bay Ridge or Flatbush,” said Fischler. “Hodges lived down the street on Bedford Avenue, his wife may still be there.”
Fischler shared the moving story of when his son needed a heart transplant and the entire Rangers team came to visit his son in the hospital. Fischler credits the visits from the players as the main reason his son was able to maintain strength and survive his battle. His son now has children of his own and lives in Israel.
“This is how the sports community came through for me,” said Fischler. “This is how sports did me a favor just as BC did me a favor for eight bucks a semester.”
Fischler also remembered the 1951 National League best-of-three tiebreaker series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. The Giants won game one, while the Dodgers took game two. After trailing for most of game three, the Giants rallied to take the series and advance to the 1951 World Series against the Yankees.
The series is famous for the walk-off home run hit by Bobby Thomson in the final game, which later became known as the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
“The effect that the loss had on Brooklynites was devastation,” said Fischler. “The whole borough was in mourning. A classmate of mine put his hand through a trophy glass. Retrospectively he said, ‘It was worth it.’”
When one student asked him to reveal one thing that he wished he knew at the beginning of his career that he now knows, Fischler answered candidly.
“I still get too emotional about sports, which may not be the acme of professionalism, but that’s who I am,” he said. “As we say in Flatbush, ‘So do me something.’”
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