John Halligan was the ultimate insider in the best sense of the term. Fans may not recognize the name, as he spent a distinguished career behind the scenes. But take it as fact that John Halligan was a guy who forgot more hockey than most people will ever know and he generously shared that knowledge with people, never lauding it over them.
Halligan, the longtime hockey publicist, historian and author who dies suddenly Wednesday at age 68, never forgot a name, a gift I'd pay cash for. Better yet, he was always smiling. But there was a reason for that. John spent his life around hockey and he loved the sport dearly.
"I was a nut. I tried to go to every game at the Garden," Halligan told NHL.com's John Kreiser of his high school and college days. "I knew from the time I was 13 or 14 that I loved hockey. I graduated from Fordham in June 1963, I sent in a resume, and two months after graduation, I got a job with the Rangers -- a seasonal job as assistant publicity director. A year later, the guy who was my boss, Herb Goren, went to work for the NHL as a consultant. I was just in the right place at the right time."
And hockey prospered because of it.
The majority of his career was spent with the New York Rangers
, who matter as a team in the big city now because John Halligan helped make them matter. He fulfilled a number of roles with the team, but the titles didn't matter, what John did best was to get the word out about the Rangers and hockey.
Just about every reporter who ever covered the Rangers will tell you about the kindness Halligan showed them during their early days on the beat, myself included. But those of us who worked for the NHL during John's time here also were blessed. You could always stick you head in John's office, be greeted with a smile and an invitation to sit down. Sometimes there was a project to discuss, often times it was just hockey talk and that was one of the perks of the job. During any one of those conversations, John would reach into a pile of folders and come out with a vintage photo or game sheet to illustrate his point.
His office was a treasure trove.
Just as he was a treasure.
-- John Halligan's wake is Friday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Vander Plaat-Vermeulen Memorial Home, Franklin Lakes, N.J. The funeral Mass will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at Most Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church, followed by interment in Christ the King Cemetery, both in Franklin Lakes.