Retired and living in Israel now, Stan Fischler is still connected to the NHL
“The Hockey Maven” is still a celebrity in his hometown, as evidenced by the warm greetings he received on his recent visits to UBS Arena and Madison Square Garden.
But New York is no longer Stan Fischler’s home. His main residence is in an Israeli kibbutz called “El Rom” in the northern Golan Heights, which he called “Jewish Montana”.
“It’s 3000 feet [in elevation], there are cattle everywhere and not a lot of people, ”Fischler said in an interview with Newsday during a visit to the United States that ends later this month.
There is a Druze town named Buq’ata about a mile and a half, the Syrian border is nearby, and members of the IDF are common in the area, which has a history of geopolitical volatility.
Other than that, Fischler said, “When you get in the car or drive, it’s mountains.”
What about hockey, however? The sport has been his journalistic focus for decades, including covering the NHL for MSG Networks, from which he retired after the 2017-18 season.
He has written dozens of books on the sport, as well as others on another passion: New York subways.
It turns out that hockey remains a big part of Fischler’s life, even in Israel. He still follows and writes about the NHL – even if that meant watching Islanders playoff games live in the wee hours of last season.
He recently announced that he would be contributing to The Hockey News, of which he was an original subscriber in 1947 and for which he first wrote in 1955.
Closer to home, his grandson, Ariel, 15, and granddaughter, Avigail, 12, grew up in Israel and are spending this season in Switzerland with their father, Simon, to hone their skills in the face of a better competition.
Fischler described Avigail as a “prodigy”.
“She’s mean on the ice,” he said. “She plays with boys… She hits the boys on their [butt]. They look up and they can’t believe it. “
The closest ice rink to El Rom is Canada Center, about a 45-minute drive near the Lebanese border. It was still about two hours away, and sometimes there were long trips to the games in the Tel Aviv area.
(Fischler helped recruit former Devil and Ranger Bobby Holik to coach the Israel National Team.)
Fischler lives in an apartment adjacent to Simon’s wife and eldest daughter while the others are in Switzerland. Her other son, Ben, lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.
He described a daily routine of checking in on the previous night’s hockey results, writing, riding a bike for an hour in the afternoon, and then coming home for dinner.
“I don’t do much else,” he said. “I have a few friends who speak English. I don’t speak Hebrew. But it’s a very healthy life … When I open the door in the morning and step out onto the deck, it’s very, very fresh air.
“It reminds me of the camp when I was a kid. The air in the Poconos was something different. Only now I get it every day.”
Even though he enjoys his current lifestyle, Fischler admitted he misses the old one. When he was at the Islanders’ UBS Arena opener on November 20, he was overrun with fans.
The day before at the ribbon cutting, “I saw all my MSG mates. For screaming out loud I got Shannon kissed twice. [Hogan]. I almost did a hug hat trick. It would have been a ‘hugging ride’ if she kissed me one more time. “
He called the fan reception “overwhelming”.
“I ate it,” he said. “Someone asked me for one of those ‘selfies’ or whatever they call it, I’m here for them, because it’s nice to make people smile.”
He added, “Frankly, I miss it. But for God’s sake I’m 89, very Zionist, and I really feel part of Israel.
He quoted an old Yiddish expression which he translated as: “With an ass you can’t dance at every wedding at the same time.” So he said, “I do like the old line says: I dance as fast as I can. ‘ “
Some Israelis are familiar with his past, including a group of Tel Aviv-area Ranger fans who invited him to speak. “But most of all,” he said, “I’m Mr. Anonymous.”
On December 9, Fischler will be inducted into the American Hockey Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Denver. He also promoted his latest book, “Tales of Brooklyn”.
Fischler said the initial impetus came from the wife of his former MSG colleague, Chico Resch, Diane. She encouraged him to write an oft-told story about his Aunt Hattie and her passion for ice cream.
He did, and he continued to write more and more accounts of his adventures in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II. He finally found he had enough for a book.
“That never would have happened if Chico’s wife hadn’t said, ‘I want you to write your Aunt Hattie ice cream story,'” Fischler said.
How many books has he written? “I hate counting words and I hate counting books,” he said. “It’s somewhere between 99 and 101.”
Fischler, who saw his first hockey game in 1939, will be 90 on March 31.
“The old adage is: how do you stay young? The answer is, ‘I’m eating All-Bran,’ ”he said. “But hockey is one of them. I thought for a while that I would lose my enthusiasm, but watching the games, I find that I am really into it.
“I swear and so on. So I often say that chronologically I may be 89, but when it comes to maturity I’m only a year after my bar mitzvah. go that far. “