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Stan Fischler's Reasons to be Thankful for the Islanders

Stan Fischler goes over the many reasons he's been thankful for New York Islanders hockey over the years

by Stan Fischler StanFischler /

It's Thanksgiving Weekend; which is the perfect time to tell you 38 things I'm thankful for after 47 years of covering Islanders hockey:

1. FIRST TELECAST: I'm thankful that Chuck Dolan and Marty Glickman picked Spencer Ross to do play-by-play on the first Isles telecast in March 1975. That meant that Spence needed a "color" commentator. Chuck and Marty picked me.

2. THE GUYS WHO TAUGHT ME TV: In the primitive late 1970s SportsChannel days we had one guy who produced and did everything else to make the telecasts viewable. Stan Epstein was the guy; our never-to-be forgotten mentor.

3. BILL AND AL: Bill Torrey got the players and Al Arbour orchestrated them. Together they produced a team that made the playoffs for the first time in 1974-75. Winning games meant that Ross and The Maven would keep working.

4. BEATING THE BLUESHIRTS: I'll forever express gratitude to J.P. Parise and Jude Drouin who delivered the 1975 playoff series-winner at Madison Square Garden. It defied all odds and meant another series and more tv work for us.

5. UN-REAL PITTING OF PENS: With the Isles own three games to none to the 1975 Penguins, Spence and The Maven figured we were done with Isles TV; maybe forever. Isles, incredibly won the next four in a row. On to Round 3!

6. ED WESTFALL: A fella couldn't be more thankful than watching #18 score the 1-0 winner in Game 7 at Pitt. A solid captain through thick and thin, Easy Ed eventually would become my tv partner. What fun! 

7. GLENN (CHICO) RESCH: Who could be luckier -- or more thankful -- than me for having a pal like The Cheekster. What nobody knows -- or knew -- is that Glenn helped patch up my feud with Battlin' Bill Smith. It wasn't easy either.

8. SMITTY FORGAVE: In a truly dumb-and-dumber moment I predicted that Smitty never would make it as a No. 1 goalie. Bill disagreed -- vehemently, as was his won't. Not only is Smitty in the Hall of Fame, but we became pals.

9. FROM PHILLY WITH LOVE: Eternal gratitude to all the Isles who were again down three games to none and yet extended -- and frightened -- the favored Flyers to seven games in Round 3. The Nassaumen had become hockey kings of NY.

10. JOHN PICKETT: How thankful we all were when Gentleman John bought the team and -- along with SportsChannel's Chuck Dolan -- permanently put the Islanders on the tv map. Now we were televising all season and the playoffs.

11. JIGGS MCDONALD: Foster ("He Shoots! He Scores!") Hewitt invented hockey play by play. My buddy Jiggs refined it to a new level of tv art. How lucky was I to be part of the Jiggs and Eddie team for such a glorious time. P.S. Brendan Burke is the new Jiggs: and following a tough act, pal Howie Rose.

Video: Denis Potvin was captain of Islanders' 1980s dynasty

12. THE CAPTAIN: To be able to watch Denis Potvin from the start to end of his exalted career was roughly equivalent to an art critic admiring the Louvre. Adding to my gratefulness was Denis letting me ghost-write his autobiography.

13. KNOWING THE TORREYS: Bow Tie Bill not only was a dynasty-maker but a swell, humorous guy who turned his team into a real family. While he was at it Bow Tie raised the wonderful clan with whom I'm still in touch thankfully.

14. THE GOAL: In 1980 we stilll wondered if we'd ever see it happen. Then Lorne Henning found John Tonelli and JT found Bobby Nystrom. I'm still thanking them for the vision of that irreplaceable first Cup-winner in 1980.

15. SON AT MY SIDE: My two boys -- older one, Ben; younger son, Simon -- soon followed the Isles. I was so pleased that Ben was sitting next to me when Mike Bossy scored the biggie to launch the Cup Three Cup march.

16. OTHER SON AT MY SIDE: When Simon was knee high to a grasshopper, he would come to a.m. practices. Torrey didn't know that his job was in "jeopardy." The Little Guy was acting like a miniature GM in the corridors.

17. THAT MORROW MAN: When the 1980 Olympics were over, we had no idea what we were getting when tall Ken Morrow arrived. How thankful I was when Ken popped the open-netter to oust Edmonton in four straight for the fourth Cup.

18. RADAR RULED: Wise, witty, humble, heroic. Praise for Al Arbour can never be enough. I covered him as Cup-winning player and Cup-winning coach. Better still -- and another Thanksgiving gift -- I knew the bespectacled one as a friend.

19. THE INIMITABLE PATTY: Only one player ever invited my wife, Shirley, and I to his wedding. That was Pat LaFontaine. I also was grateful that the LaFontaine's hired a big band and one with a trombone, which I once played.

Video: 1984 Round 1, Gm7: LaFontaine nets historic 4OT goal

20. EASTER EPIC: The Hockey News rated the Isles classic Easter overtime win over Washington as the "Second Greatest Game" of all-time. I'm thankful for having interviewed Pat LaFontaine minutes after he potted the winner.

21. HEALS AND FLATS: Glenn Healy and Patrick Flatley were noble, able performers on the ice. But on tv, the pair were hilarious doing a series of basement podcasts before anyone knew what a podcast was all about.

22. THE SPORTSCHANNEL CLUB: I was able to continue making a living because of my bosses at SportsChannel. Jerry Passaro, Leslie Howlett, John Tatta, Chuck Dolan, among many, liked my act. My wife also was grateful. 

23. ROOTING FOR HRUDEY: Every so often a player would arrive who liked what I liked. I loved Kelly Hrudey's spectacular goaltending at the Easter Epic but I also was thankful he was a guy who could talk mountain-biking with me.

24. THE GREAT GREEN: One afternoon in Hartford an Islander was endlessly working on his stick -- my buddy, Travis Green. He looked up and said, "Hi, Mave!" For giving me a new nickname, Mave, Travis is my Great One!

25. RAPID RAYMOND: Sure, David Volek potted the Game 7 1993 series-winner over defending champ Pitt, but Ray Ferraro dished the pass. And post-game, Ray gave me an exclusive interview. How thankful was I for that!

26. JOE COHEN-MIKE MCARTHY: When MSG Networks absorbed SportsChannel it could have been it for my tv life. MSGs Joe Cohen and Mike McCarthy gave me a vote of confidence and a new contract. Thanks, guys!

27. MY EMMY PRODUCERS: Ace producers like Jeff Fillipi, George Wrage, Matty Fineman, Roland Dratch, Kevin Meininger, Jim Gallagher, Paula McHale, Bob de Poto, Bob Melnick, Jackie Lyons, Stu Wiener -- and many more -- were the real reasons why I have seven Emmys. I just followed their directions.

28. NIFTY NABBY: What post-game fun I had with Evgeni Nabokov. Together, we almost brought back vaudeville. If Nabby wanted me to sing him a song for today, it would have to be "We've Got Plenty To Be Thankful For."

29. UNSUNG HERO: This is my standing O for the Isles ace statistician Eric Hornick who produces numbers faster than you can say, YES! YES! YES!

30. BUTCHIE THE BEST: We had dinner the night he arrived on the Island in 1980 ready to become the "Missing Piece In The Cup Puzzle." I had the good fortune to watch Butch Goring star and then teach me hockey via his analysis. 

31. LOU: Need I say more. I've known Mister Lamoriello since 1987. I'm thankful for what he's done for this team. And for teaching me important homilies including my favorite, "Do what's right and do it now!"

32. MY PARENTS: Had my Dad not taken me to a New York Rovers game on a Sunday afternoon in 1939 at the old Garden, who knows where I'd be today. And Mom was right there getting me PAL freebies for still more hockey games.

33. SHIRLEY AND THE BOYS: I married a beautiful, gifted woman who loved hockey like nobody's business. She became a better writer than her husband while raising Ben and Simon. Meanwhile I was having fun at the Coliseum.

34. THE TROTZ EFFECT: I only know one coach who could wear Al Arbour's shoes. I'm so thankful that Lou brought him here because, to me, Barry Trotz is the Winston Churchill of hockey coaches. Translated; THE best.

35. THE MAN BEHIND THE LENS: The best hockey photographer got his start at The Barn. I'm thankful to have known Bruce Bennett since he started taking pix; also pleased he reached the peak while remaining one heck of a nice guy.

36. THE INIMITABLE SHANNON: A few years before I decided to leave my MSG Networks Isles gig, the irrepressible Shannon Hogan arrived. This remarkable reporter has brightened the show for everyone. 

37. THE DYNAMIC DUO: Co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky have re-defined galvanic, responsible and fan-friendly ownership. They've restored Cup-hope and are building a new Belmont Arena to make us proud -- and thankful.

38. YOU, YOU AND YOU: And I do mean YOU, the Islanders fans who have supported this wonderful club in all kinds of weather. And who've supplied the octane for The Maven to keep my engine running. THANKS!

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