40 Years of Fischler: A Dozen of the Maven’s Best, Worst & Most Unusual

After 40 years broadcasting with the Islanders and the network, I give you a dozen of Fischler’s best, worst and most unusual.

Charles Dolan asks his pal, Marty Glickman to find a hockey analyst to work with play-by-play man Spencer Ross on the first Islanders telecast from Nassau Coliseum. When Marty phoned me with the offer, I thought I had gone to Heaven. Four fruitful decades later, I am happily still working with the Dolan Family.

Underdogs against the Rangers in the 1975 playoffs, the Isles beat the Blueshirts in the first round. Still underdogs, they lost the first three to Pittsburgh in the second round and then took four straight to advance to the third round against defending Cup-winning Philly. Once again, Al Arbour’s sextet lost three straight and then rallied for a trio of wins. Unfortunately, they lost Game 7 to the Flyers. Ross and I handled all home games at the Coliseum.

By 1979, the Nassaumen had become a powerhouse. But the Rangers had their playoffs number. I worked with play-by-play man Tim Ryan at The Garden for Game 6. From an Islanders viewpoint, it was heartbreaking to watch the Blueshirts conquer the series and listen to accusations of a “choking” hockey club. No broadcast could have felt worse to do than that one.

Watching Bob Nystrom convert John Tonelli’s pass for the Cup-winning goal in 1980 still has a surreal feel to it. In only seven years, I watched Bill Torrey’s club ascend to fabulous status. The “Let’s Go Islanders” post-win horn-blowing still resonates in my ears.

When the Rangers invaded Uniondale for the decisive clash in 1984, Arbour’s outfit was hellbent on its “Drive For Five.” I was watching late third-period action on our TV monitor in the old SportsChannel studio across from the Rangers room. Suddenly, two sidelined Rangers — Barry Beck and Nick Fotiu — march in uninvited just in time to see Don Maloney tie the game for the Blueshirts. They returned for the overtime — half of us rooting for the Isles and those guys pulling for the Rangers — until Ken Morrow buried the puck behind Glen Hanlon. We waited for Barry and Nick to bolt from the studio before letting out our roar of approval.

I had been warned that Edmonton’s goalie Grant Fuhr was less than loquacious and it would be best not to try an interview with him. Still, I liked the challenge and had a number of questions ready for the Oilers ace before our verbal ping pong match began. I managed to fire right back at Fuhr’s one- or two-word answers, but never got him to really open up. Bottom Line: Nice try; bad choice.

It would be unfair to list just one because so many were eloquent, funny and insightful. Among the Isles, Denis Potvin was the most analytical and Bobby Bourne, the most candid. Bill Smith, by far, was the most outrageous especially the night he ripped Wayne Gretzky on network TV after Smitty was presented with the Conn Smythe Trophy by NHL President John Ziegler. By far my regular favorite was Evgeni Nabokov with whom I developed a comedic routine and chemistry that topped them all.

As a Bruin, Mike Milbury was so entertaining that Newsday’s Stan Isaacs said that “Milbury should be on, not only between the first-period break, but the second one as well.” Washington’s Al Iafrate arrested attention by smoking a cigarette before and after our interviews, while Blues back-liner Charlie Bourgeois always was good for laughs. And how could I forget the beauteous model Carol Alt who twice appeared with me when she was married to Rangers defenseman Ron Greschner.

I was having a feud with Wayne Gretzky when he was a Ranger. But The Great One showed his class by coming on with me at the Coliseum between periods and even went so far as to discuss our differences; after which we made up. No less startling was the time that Rangers coach Herb Brooks was being interviewed before a game and tired of waiting to launch the interview with me. Suddenly, Herb began to leap from his chair when young stage manager Mark Berlinsky shouted, “sit down!” Brooks was so startled he fell back in his chair, whereupon I quickly launched into our interview.

My good friend Father Ed Casey of Philadelphia inadvertently walked onstage while Matt Loughlin did an interview with the Devils John Madden. Producer Roland Dratch flipped on the TV truck as Casey strolled in front of the camera. That part wasn’t funny. But just before Matty and I were to launch into our game intro, the curtain behind us began to accidentally slip down. Cameraman Mike Finn fixed it within seconds of us going on the air whereupon Roland whispered in our earpieces, “Next time have the Father fix it.” Alas, Matt and the Maven spent the next minute laughing our heads off and never could stop until the commercial break finally gave us a break from the endless guffaws.

In the Spring of 1988, the Devils gained a playoff berth for the first time and that was swell. But then they met the Islanders in the post-season — I was broadcasting the decisive New Jersey victory, watching my buddy Denis Potvin get clobbered into the end boards. The sad part was that the future Hall of Famer had slowed down and lost his famed ferocity. He was slow to get up from the check and I remember sadly thinking that I was watching the curtain come down on a super career. Denis soon retired.

Pound-for-pound, Bob Nystrom of the Isles and the Rangers George McPhee were two of the best fighters in the league. They proved it one night at the Coliseum in a free-slugging — no jersey-grabbing — bout that ultimately ended with Nystrom head-butting his foe; an out of character move if I ever saw one. For years, I wondered why Nystrom did that. Finally, when McPhee was GM of the Capitals, I reminded him of the fight and added that I was amazed that Bobby would end it with a head butt. “What you didn’t notice,” McPhee shot back, “is that I head-butted Bobby first!”