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Blittner’s Blue Line: The Maven And The Hall, It’s Time To Right A Wrong

The Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s a grand building in Toronto and a true home of hockey’s history. Not only does it house interesting artifacts and put many items on display, but it also honors those whose careers have left an indelible mark on the game. 

Those careers have belonged to a variety of people. There have been players, coaches, executives, owners, on-ice officials, and even writers and broadcasters who have been inducted into this hallowed cathedral of hockey. Needless to say, if your career is selected as one worthy of enshrinement, it is a well-deserved honor. This brings me to the point of this column…

Why the heck hasn’t “The Hockey Maven,” Stan Fischler been inducted yet? His career has spanned so many decades that most don’t even realize he’s been covering the National Hockey League for 70 years!

That’s right, 70 YEARS! He started way back in 1954; over a decade before the Original Six Era ended! How many of you are still doing something that predates the Original Six Era? (Probably not many of you, if any at all). To put this into further perspective, the NHL has existed for 107 years. That means Fischler has been covering The League for 65.42% of its history!

Oh and for the record, Fischler is STILL ACTIVELY covering the NHL. Between his columns for The NY Islanders’ website, The NJ Devils’ website, The NHL’s website, and The Hockey News – for whom he writes about the Islanders, Devils, and Rangers – The man known as “The Hockey Maven” is still going strong to this day. And this day is just a couple of weeks shy of his 92nd birthday! I wonder what many of you will be doing at 92 years old. (If I took a guess, you all probably won’t be covering the NHL on such a grand scale). 

Now, why are we discussing this? Well, with his 92nd birthday fast approaching, it’s time to end decades of wrongdoing and put Fischler in The Hall of Fame. 

Former Devils and Lightning radio Play-by-Play man, Larry Hirsch has informed Blittner’s Blue Line that he is sending a formal nomination to the NHL Broadcasters’ Association to put Fischler up for The Foster Hewitt Memorial Award; which carries automatic induction into The Hall of Fame. 

For those who don’t know, The Foster Hewitt Memorial Award – named after broadcasting legend Foster Hewitt – is awarded annually by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association, “in recognition of members of the radio and television industry who made outstanding contributions to their profession and the game during their career in hockey broadcasting.”

While many of the award’s recipients have been and are play-by-play broadcasters, there have been several notable analysts who have also been honored. 

That last part is key. Many people mistake The Hewitt Award as strictly for play-by-play broadcasters. That is not the case. And while we’re at it, there is a prevailing belief that on-air hosts are not eligible for the award. However, nowhere in the award’s description does it state that to be the case. 

With that in mind, let’s turn our attention back to Fischler. “The Hockey Maven” may have started his career as a writer – and continues to write to this day – but he also served as an on-air analyst for many, many years – decades really. Fischler was part of a team of broadcasters who used to call and analyze Hartford Whalers games back when the team was still part of the WHA. 

He was also part of the Islanders’ first-ever televised playoff broadcast in 1974-75, before settling into a consistent role on Isles’ television that lasted until he retired from TV following the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Along the way, he also found time to be a significant part of Devils broadcasts and even Rangers broadcasts. 

When you talk to hockey people who grew up rooting for the Islanders, Devils or Rangers, the one constant they mention is watching Fischler on their team’s broadcasts. The Maven is so revered for his work as both a broadcaster and as a writer that the New York Islanders named the entire press level – not just the press box – at UBS Arena after him. That’s right, the whole press level! Think about it, you’ve got to be pretty damn significant to be honored in such a way.

Now, getting back to Hirsch’s nomination, Blittner’s Blue Line decided to do an informal survey of sorts. We reached out to broadcasters across the entire NHL to ask them two questions. One, do they believe Stan Fischler deserves to be inducted into The Hockey Hall of Fame? Two, If they believe he’s worthy of induction, do they feel The Foster Hewitt Award is the right way to get him in?

We spoke to play-by-play broadcasters, analysts, and hosts. Broadcasters from the United States and Canada. In the interest of fairness and collecting votes without bias, we did not survey broadcasters from the Islanders, Devils, or Rangers. We wanted to see what broadcasters who did not work directly with Fischler thought. (We also granted the broadcasters anonymity – if they wanted it – to speak freely and candidly). 

Of the eight broadcasters who responded to our survey, 100% of them agreed wholeheartedly that Fischler belongs in The Hall of Fame. 

As one broadcaster put it, “Of course he does, I’m surprised that he isn’t in already to be honest.” 

Steven Goldstein, the esteemed play-by-play broadcaster for the Florida Panthers said, “1,000% he is a Hall of Famer. It’s disappointing that he isn’t already in. He was a key part of a great generation of hockey in the world’s biggest city. For many of us who are in the business and who were fans (growing up), he was an integral part of the Islanders-Rangers rivalry in the 70’s and 80’s. Stan also is an incredible link to the past with great stories of the sport back in the old days.”

Pete Weber, the legendary broadcaster for the Nashville Predators told Blittner’s Blue Line, “Absolutely, yes. Stan should be in either via The Hewitt or The Ferguson. His middle name should be ‘ubiquitous.’ He was everywhere.”

Even Hockey Night In Canada’s longtime Host Ron MacLean weighed in by saying, “Absolutely he should be in…Stan’s role has been colossal.”

Now that we’ve established what his fellow broadcasters think in regards to whether or not he should be in The Hall, let’s delve into the second part of our survey and see if they feel, like Hirsch does, that Fischler should receive The Foster Hewitt award. Fair warning, this is where opinions tend to differ.

For the sake of clarity, there are technically three different ways Fischler can earn induction into The Hall of Fame. One, he receives The Foster Hewitt Award. Two, He receives The Elmer Ferguson Award – given annually, “in recognition of distinguished members of the hockey-writing profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and hockey.” It is voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. And three, he can be selected as a Builder, which means he was exceptionally important to the growth of the game of hockey.

As one anonymous broadcaster put it, “He deserves The Elmer Ferguson Award first for his writing…and deserves consideration for The Foster Hewitt too.” Another broadcaster who wished to remain anonymous said, “Yes, he should probably be in. But I think as a writer and not a broadcaster. So, no on The Foster Hewitt and yes on The Elmer Ferguson.”

That’s certainly a fair stance to take. But it’s also the stance that has, at least partially, led to the decades going by without Fischler receiving his rightful induction. You see, many voting writers feel he should be viewed as a broadcaster while many voting broadcasters feel he should be viewed as a writer. 

A few years ago, when I wrote a column breaking down Fischler’s Hall of Fame case, longtime Predators’ executive Gerry Helper told me, “His coverage of the game and his reach have been unmatched in the history of the game.”

That’s quite the statement. If The Maven’s coverage of the game is “unmatched,” then why are we even debating his Hall of Fame case? He should just be inducted immediately. 

Ah, if only it were that simple. 

Ken Daniels, the highly regarded and respected play-by-play man for the Detroit Red Wings highlighted the conundrum that is Fischler’s two careers. “I believe he would need to receive The Elmer Ferguson award. I view his works more in the writing category – books about the game rather than broadcasting.”

This inability for people to decide on whether Fischler is a writer or a broadcaster is what led esteemed Seattle Kraken play-by-play broadcaster John Forslund to say, “In a way I feel he belongs in the builder category.” 

That’s an interesting take and an avenue that should probably be explored further, but I can already hear my editor yelling that this column is taking too long, so we’ll leave the Builder’s debate for another time. 

I believe it’s fair to say that our surveyed broadcasters are in complete agreement that Fischler belongs in The Hall of Fame. They just can’t seem to agree on how to get him there. So, I’ll leave you with one final comment, this one from Paul Fichtenbaum, who was the Chief Content Officer for The Athletic a couple of years ago when I first wrote about The Maven and The Hall. 

“He has dedicated his life to the sport and his impact on the game is difficult to truly measure…Writing, broadcasting, Stan did it all, with Elan.”

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