I kid you not. For me watching hockey, talking hockey and having a ball while I’m at it is worthy of the tune, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me.”
Who would want it to end? But it must and while the clock ticks, the memories pile up to Everest proportions. That said, I’ll begin at the beginning with a few recollections about getting to where I am now and ready to leave.
It was 1974 and I was telecasting New England Whalers (WHA) games for a Boston station. This was March in Toronto and the phone rang in my Royal York Hotel suite. Legendary broadcaster Marty Glickman — a pal — delivered the message: “Chuck Dolan wants you to do an Islanders game or two; maybe three; who knows?”
Who knew? I did that first game — Isles-Atlanta — and Al Arbour‘s team made the playoffs. I’ve been doing Islanders games ever since.
From then until now, the thrills were endless and the following are just a precious few:
1. J.P. Parise‘s goal in the 1975 playoffs beats the Rangers in OT. (Jude Drouin made the pass.) The win puts the Islanders on the NHL map.
2. In the next round, down 3-0 to Pittsburgh, Arbour’s sextet beats the Pens with four straight wins. Captain Ed Westfall gets the 1-0 winner in the finale.
3. Next, the Nassaumen rebound from another 3-0 deficit to tie Philly, but couldn’t beat singer Kate Smith, Philly’s “Good Luck” vocalist. Now the Isles are the new NHL darlings and get a full-season television contract for next year and forever.
4. Imagine my luck to watch the likes of Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, the Potvins, Clark Gillies, Bill Smith, John Tonelli, Bob Bourne and Bobby Nystrom turn into champions.
5. The first Cup is always the best. I was there to see the play: Henning to Tonelli to Nystrom — The Cup!
6. The Second Stanley looked easy, a 4-1 outing of Minnesota. On the way, Arbour’s guys had to scratch and claw some hefty opposition.
7. The 1982 4-game sweep of Vancouver started when Bossy scored late in the first period of Game 1. Believe it or not, Boss saved what looked like a Vancouver upset.
8. I’ll never forget Cup 4. Another four-game sweep, but it felt like seven games. Not until Ken Morrow cashed his open-netter did it feel as if another title was won.
[Fischler: How I Got It Wrong About Ken Morrow]
9. More good luck for me — enter Pat LaFontaine and Patrick Flatley. Patty, all-class. Flats, laughs and a memorable body check that knocked Barry (the Titanic) Beck out of the New York-New York series in 1984.
[Watch: Fischler Sits Down With Pat Flatley]
10. Historic O.T. Games: LaFontaine’s marathon winner vs. Bob Mason and the Capitals in the Never-Never-Land of Landover, Maryland where getting a post-game cab was tougher than flying to the moon.
11. Another marathon with a sad ending; Martin Brodeur–Dominik Hasek OT game in Buffalo. (Marty should have stopped the winner.)
12. More recently the Adam Henrique‘s series-winner vs. Rangers that should have gone to the Blueshirts, but John Tortorella was out-coached by Peter DeBoer.
13. I savored — and cringed — over any Tortorella press conference; each of which proved that vaudeville isn’t dead.
14. Talk about beating the odds, how about the incredible Devils 1995 Cup win after a host of Canadian writers picked Scotty Bowman’s Red Wings to beat New Jersey in four. (One fool even said, three.) Being at the Meadowlands for the Cup clincher; oh, what that ever grand; just grand.
15. As momentous Manhattan Moments go, the topper at the Blueshirts’ end had to be 1994 capped by the march up the Canyon of Champions. Mark Messier–Mike Richter–Brian Leetch hit their peaks but my unsung Ranger was Kevin Lowe.