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Hall of Fame

Brown thrilled to win Elmer Ferguson Award from Hockey Hall of Fame

Longtime writer, NHL communications executive covered some of sport's biggest moments

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Frank Brown's byline is on top of some of the most important stories in hockey history.

He covered the Montreal Canadiens dynasty in the late 1970s, the "Miracle on Ice" at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics and the 1980 New York Islanders' Stanley Cup championship for The Associated Press. He covered the remainder of the 1980s Islanders dynasty, the New York Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup championship and the New Jersey Devils' 1995 championship for the New York Daily News.

Brown, who left the newspaper business in 1998 to become an NHL communications executive, will see his name immortalized on a glass plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for excellence in hockey journalism.

"The point is you stare at a glass plaque, 12 inches by 12 inches, and there's about eight or nine lines of copy, and it's the same size for every person," Brown said. "One of the multitude of things I love about hockey is no matter how much you played, no matter how many goals you scored in the playoffs, if your team wins the Stanley Cup your letters are the same size as Jean Beliveau's, as Gordie Howe's, as Bobby Orr's, as any of the legends, the monoliths of our sport. To imagine that my plaque is the same size as Red Fisher's and Frank Orr's and Elmer Ferguson's, I get goose bumps. This is your number going in the rafters. This is your eternal byline."

Montreal Candiens legends (from l,) Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard meet with Frank Brown and Red Fisher in the Salon Jacques-Beauchamp, the media lounge at Bell Centre in Monttreal.

 

Brown first started watching hockey in 1965, when he was 13 years old. He wrote his first story for pay as an 18-year-old in 1970. It was for a Rangers' game night program.

He spent seven seasons as the AP's lead hockey writer before leaving in 1980 for the Daily News, where he would work for the next 18 years.

"Frank always had a sense of history of the game," said Eric Duhatschek, a writer for The Athletic who chairs the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award committee and who won the award himself in 2001. "He's among the top three professionals that I've been around."

Duhatschek said Brown was the first honoree in the 16 years he's chaired the committee who did research on Elmer Ferguson after being notified he was receiving the award.

"No one was more prepared to cover anything than Frank was," Duhatschek said. "We did a job at a time when we were writing history on deadline. The only way to do it effectively is to make sure any question you are asking you've already answered in your mind, and then you go off what happened. That's prepared, and Frank's level of professionalism from the start of his career to the end was first rate. Meticulous is a word I'd use for him. Prepared, certainly."

In addition to covering hockey, Frank Brown (c.) played goalie when the United States writers faced off against the Canadian writers during the 1994 All-Star Weekend at Madison Square Garden.  

 

Brown lists the win by the United States against the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics as the most impactful story he covered "because of the global impact that it had on the sport.

"Literally a game-changing moment -- not only from the standpoint of hockey, but really from the standpoint of American hockey," Brown said. "Everything changed when Team USA won that gold medal. It validated the experience. It galvanized attention and interest that really wasn't there to the extent that we have seen it reach today."

Brown said he used to cherish his interviews with coaches, especially Herb Brooks, Scotty Bowman and Bob Johnson, because he would always walk away having learned more about the game.

Of the thousands of players he covered, Brown listed Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Guy Lafleur and Bryan Trottier among the most interesting. He said Trottier was the most exacerbating because he refused to talk about himself.

"I was on a quest to help people understand what a superstar he was, and he never would help me," Brown said. "If I was doing a long story about Mike Bossy or if I was doing a long story about any of his Islanders teammates, Bryan would talk to me as long as I could stand there. But when I wanted to shine the spotlight on this guy, I could have been just talking to my socks because he would not ever shine the spotlight on himself. He was probably the biggest challenge."

In addtion to hockey, Frank Brown's other passion is the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Here is Frank, NHL senior vice president/communications John Dellapina (l.) and E Street Band drummer and hockey fan Max Weinberg. 

 

Brown looks at the list of Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award winners he's joining and realizes he worked with, was a contemporary of or competed against 42 of the first 60. He's the 61st and he said it's brought on an emotional disorientation because it's an overwhelming honor.

"Nobody begins to write sports with the objective of getting honored by your peers and being immortalized in the Hall of Fame," Brown said. "That's just too crazy. You get into the business because you absolutely cherish the subject matter, you're continually fascinated by it and eager to not only learn about it but to share the learning with the people who trust you to share it with them. This is all just different to be recognized for having done so.

"It's simply indescribable, and that's a problem when your whole essence is supposedly about finding the right words."

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