So they asked me to write and reflect on my years doing MSG TV now that my retirement news is official.
That’s like asking The Maven to squeeze the Atlantic Ocean into a Coke bottle.
Are they kidding?
Talking about all the fun I’ve had on this job would take about a year of your time.
Mentioning all the good people with whom I worked and love so much would require about 90,000 words in a hardcover book of my memoirs; which, by the way, I will be working on some time in the future. (Don’t ask me when.)
But I now must express my love for those who helped me and laughed with me and intensely reminded me to, “STAY OUT OF PRODUCTION.” (Another painstakingly difficult feat that I accomplished about 4.5 percent of the time.)
Then again, my counter-crusade had this deathless theme: “MORE AIRTIME” uttered to beloved producer Roland Dratch who had carefully concealed earplugs whenever I was in sight.
And if you’re wondering why I’m walking away from all this MSG happiness; well — as Devils coach John Hynes once said to me after my 431st query — “Now, that’s a good question.”
I mean, who in his right mind would want to retire from a dream gig like mine?
Not me; that’s for sure.
I’ve lived that dream ever since I did my first Islanders telecast in 1975 and right up to this Habs at Isles game Friday night right in my own backyard, Brooklyn.
Ah, but there is a larger asterisk, hovering over my career. You see, for years one part of my life has been shoved aside so I could have so much of this MSG hockey fun — and that was family. And that — when you really come down to hard-core values — wasn’t fair to my family. Simple as that.
My family isn’t in Bensonhurst nor Borough Park; they’re far, far away.
[Watch Stan Fischler Tonight on the Islanders-Canadiens Telecast on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]
My older son, Ben, 46, lives in Oregon and the younger one, Simon, who’ll be 40 on Saturday, is in Israel. They are the key to the equation; far-away families who I want to be near.
Plus, there are three grandchildren with Simon on Kibbutz El Rom and two more grandkids in Portland and all have The Maven singing that wonderful tune, “Yearning.” As in yearning to be with them.
The kids are growing and I’m not around to be with Odel, Ariel and Abigail who live on the Golan Heights nor with Ezra and Niko in the Great Northwest. Nor their terrific Moms, Kine in Portland and Lilach in The Golan.
Which explains why I sat down with my boss Jeff Filippi a while ago and said, “Make this (2017-18) my last season doing all the Islanders home games.”
Before he could muster a “What the…” I explained that while have I my health, I want to be with my kids and grandkids. Being a father, Jeff knew.
For sure, the lure had to be sure because nobody in his right mind — not that I am — would forsake the gig I’ve had at MSG.
Think about it, I actually started to work at The Garden — the “Old” Garden, that is — on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets after getting out of Brooklyn College in 1954 and I’m still “Garden-ing,” only the building is newer and prettier.
Plus, I’m still doing what I loved then — right now; this minute as a matter of fact.
Talk about luck, I was blessed with the very best behind-the-scenes talent from Stan Epstein to Danny Regan, Jeff Filippi, Kevin (Genius Move With Heals and Flats) Meininger, Paula McHale, Matty Fineman, Jim Gallagher, Glenn (Get Me A Pen) Petraitis, Bob Melnik, Bobby Mills, Joel (Laugh A Little Louder) Mandelbaum, Charlie Cucchiara, Sarah Servetnick, Larry Roth, Marty (Per Diem) Orner, Roland Dratch, and one of my longest and very best pals, Leslie Howlett. Of course Bob de Poto — like a brother to me and the genius-plus-humor of George Wrage. A real sleeper, Señor Reyes who delivered the Knicks report where no one would expect it. Howie Rose, from foe to friend in one easy lesson.
Wait a minute; that’s just for starters.
Butch Goring, who made the four Cups possible, Doc and Chico, Jiggs and Eddie, Sam Rosen and John Davidson then Sam and Joe Micheletti, Steve Cangialosi and Kenny “Mister Devil” Daneyko, Spencer Ross; every available Albert from Marv to Steve to Al to Kenny, Mike (Who Was Funnier Than Him?) McCarthy, who accepted me from SportsChannel to MSG Network; the ever-popular Joe Cohen, who seconded McCarthy’s motion; Jerry Passaro, who tripled the motion, Katie Epifane, who turned Table Hockey into a should-be-Emmy. The Majestic Kyle Carney, who brought his sweet daughter on my Williamsburg tour and who loved the Edelman The Tailor gag.
Nice Bryce Salvador, MSG’s rookie of the year and the new Foster Hewitt, our Brendan Burke, who knows no sophomore slump. I miss my buddy Peter Ruttgaizer, with whom I learned that Canadians know as much hockey as Brooklynites; sometimes a bit more. Pete is another class act; credit to our biz. Ditto my SportsChannel pal then and now, Diane (Don’t Call Her Betty Coed) de Poto, best Rockefeller Centre skating partner I ever had.
Dare I omit? Nay, I cannot:
The absolute Slump-less Marc Mondry who once made my day with a phone call announcing the launch of “Five For Fischler.” Ah, and Tom Meberg, the baseball fan’s baseball fan; the pro’s pro and good pal, Deb Placey, Chris (The Crew Cut’s Crew Cut) DeLauro, The Greater Than Great Millie Melendez, Dan Schoenberg, who did his best to keep me on the Straight-and-Narrow Path; Another pro’s pro, Al Trautwig, The Very Underrated Bill Pidto, Fran O’Connell who laughed at 89.5 percent of my jokes; way above the average. Ken Mattucci who remains the majordomo of missing archives and finds stuff for which the Smithsonian still is searching. Dave (We Want Him To Get Better) Hagen who granted me one-minute joke time before every production meeting. (I really needed two minutes.) Once an intern, the sterling Jackie (Not Another Joke) Lyons is now an exec of note and one of my favorite pals, ever.
I’ve loved working with the folks at the Networks website; especially Ryan Braithwaite who, I believe, invented it, along with the Morse Code. Lucky Ngamwajasat has been my man for some time, not to mention Brad Polk, Eric (Love Those Red Wings) Walsh, Colleen (The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi) Murphy, Chris Cipriano, Ryan Chiu and anyone I forgot ’cause it’s getting late early here.
There’s always a boss to give you the boot if you’re not up to snuff and I’ve been around since covered wagon days to know all about that.
Andrea Greenberg has been the boss who has kept my mug on camera far longer than I ever thought possible. Andrea, you get a low, appreciative bow from me; jokes later.
Without Andrea’s support, I might well be flying a kite now on the Central Park Sheep Meadow instead of getting ready for the pre-game show with one of the very best people I have ever had the pleasure to work with, Shannon Hogan.
Yeah, I know you’ve had enough of the names and I sure hope my omitted colleagues will forgive any omissions. Time to get to a few episodes of note and not-so-note over the years here for you:
Before getting too punchy, I must acknowledge my interns, once known as “Fischler-ettes.” Can’t name all 20,000 of them, but Jessica Berman became an NHL VP as did Frank Brown. Also, Dave (What Will He Do Next?) Katz who drove our fave director Joe O’Rourke nuts when Larry (The Impersonator) Gaines took a time-out from his Joe-targeted ribaldry.
Classic Tale Department: When Katz tried to take his pet (live) dog into the TV truck before a game in Philly, O’Rourke blocked the canine with a simple equation: “That dog gets in the truck when it learns how to put on headphones!” (P.S. Mutt remained in the rain.)
If my dear, departed, lovely wife, Shirley, was looking over my shoulder, she would have said, “Enough, already.”
The hint, my dear, is taken.
Anyone I missed; sorry; a “Senior Moment” can go on for hours.
As Brooklyn Dodgers press agent Irving Rudd once said about our once-favorite baseball team, alias The Boys of Summer, I now say about the 11 Penn crew who sustained, entertained and made my life so much fun. “There was not a Rotter in the Lot.”
Hanging over the bed at my country house, there’s a small poem adorned with a couple strolling down a country path.
The opening words went something like this: Old Pal; I wish we could hit the trail together just once more.
Which is precisely how I feel at this turning-point in my life moment.
I was fortunate; I hit that trail more than once and for that, I thank you, my MSG Family, who I will love — and laugh with — forever.
P.S. Like I told you before, I’m going to forget some of my dearest pals. So huge thanks to JT, the best friend any announcer ever had and Al Bernstein, the only professor I know who knows more about television than most networks.