Many guests aboard New York Sports Tours’ sports history tour experience have shared high praise of Stan Fischler. Many others have learned about the New York sportswriter and broadcaster during the outing.
Today, on Fischler’s 88th birthday, New York Sports Tours shares from its vast collection of New York sports artifacts an item that shows some past work of the man known as the Hockey Maven and, to many, simply the Maven.
An original program from the final sports event to be staged at the previous Madison Square Garden, the item is among those rotated in to the tour experience. Each tour shares an seamless flow of interconnected stories to show the impact of Greater New York sports on culture and society.
The program was originally handed out at the New York Rangers-Detroit Red Wings National Hockey League (NHL) game on February 11, 1968. Fischler was writing on behalf of Long Island’s Suffolk Sun.
In one article, Fischler brings to life some of the previous Garden’s more colorful hockey stories. His lede seemingly foreshadows the Big Data analytics era.
“It’s too bad computers weren’t in vogue in 1925 when the Garden opened; otherwise we might have been able come up with a ratio of humors and characters to thrills in the great old building,” the story begins.
In the piece, Fischler writes about such personalities as Larry Kwong and Sally Lark.
Kwong became the first NHL player of Asian descent when he was called up to the Rangers from the team’s Eastern Hockey League club the New York Rovers in 1948. Brooklyn’s Lark, nicknamed Sin Bin Sally, was an interior designer who became a passionate Rangers fan from her seat next to the penalty area used by each of the opposing teams.
The building referred to as the Old Garden by many longtime New York sports fans was located on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. In 1925, the year the Old Garden opened, the now-defunct New York Americans of the NHL hosted the arena’s first hockey game. The New York Rangers (in action below at the Garden in the 1950s) joined the NHL the following year.
Fischler’s knowledge of New York hockey and Madison Square Garden history is unparalleled. He has covered the NHL over eight decades. He has written or co-written nearly 100 hockey books and earned praise as a sportswriter for many newspapers, including the Brooklyn Eagle and New York Journal-American. He has entertained generations of hockey fans as an Emmy Award-winning analyst for MSG Networks starting in 1975.
The previous Garden was Manhattan’s third Madison Square Garden. In addition to the Americans, Rangers and Rovers, the arena’s hockey tenants have included the World Hockey Association’s short-lived New York Raiders and shorter-lived New York Golden Blades.
Sightseeing tour stops at the Garden have been popular for more than 100 years, and New York Sports Tours’ three-hour tour often shows the locations of all four Gardens. Among the New York Sports Tours outings where the 1968 program has been part of the tour narrative is one hosted by 18-year Daily News hockey writer and now-retired National Hockey League executive Frank Brown and another by New Jersey Devils radio play-by-play voice Matt Loughlin.
Tour guests have enjoyed insights about hockey from Fischler’s stories in the 1968 program.
In a piece on the Rangers’ Stanley Cup championship seasons that ended in 1928 and 1940, Fischler wrote, “The Garden’s ice was colored brown in those days… And when a good team played a bad team all the ice was white in one end and brown in the other. Usually, the Ranger ice… was brown. The clubs were that good.”
One of the program’s stories with Fischler’s byline is about the Americans.
“The Americans had as much color as their star-spangled uniforms and their owner, millionaire bootlegger Big Bill Dwyer, put together,” Fischler reported. “And that’s a lot of color, man.”
Fischler has not forgotten the impact the Old Garden has had on his life. This morning, he tweeted, “My first hockey thrill took place in 1939 at old Madison Square Garden. Saw my first game NY Rovers vs. Washington Eagles. My Dad took me and I loved it. Thanks to Dad, I never stopped going to hockey after that! It keeps me 88.”