Stan Fischler, thought of as a hockey historian and the...

Stan Fischler, thought of as a hockey historian and the same when it comes to the New York City subway system, is seen outside Barclays Center before an Islanders game on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, where he can be found in the broadcast booth commenting on current and past hockey plays and games. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Stan Fischler enjoys the subway ride to Madison Square Garden from his apartment in upper Manhattan. He enjoys the ride to Barclays Center twice as much.

That is because it takes twice as long.

"The more you're on it, the more fun it is," he said. "I'm getting double my money's worth. I'd ride it all day if I could."

Fischler, 83, who also answers to "The Hockey Maven," was speaking on the No. 3 train en route to Brooklyn on Tuesday for a Devils-Islanders game on which he would appear for MSG on both teams' telecasts.

That includes working the Islanders' locker room doing postgame interviews, a job customarily filled on local networks by neatly coiffed young women and men.

Fischler was born during the Hoover Administration, and he arrived at Barclays wearing green pants.

This young, transitional Islanders season has been one of mixed emotions for him. "Mixed, mixed, mixed," he said.

On one hand, he has covered them on TV for 40 years, counts their first Stanley Cup in 1980 as his greatest hockey memory and is a traditionalist who will miss the people and history at Nassau Coliseum.

On the other, Fischler happens to be an expert not only on the history of hockey -- the subject of most of his more than 100 books -- but also on subways, about which he has written a half-dozen books.

So it has been a serendipitous blessing suddenlyto have the team he covers move to his native borough, within subway distance, at this late stage of his career.

Perhaps "late" is too much of an assumption, though. He shows no signs of slowing down. He bikes regularly, does a couple of dozen pushups a day and, crucially, he added, eats plenty of horseradish. He was on ice skates as recently as last year.

Asked if he always has been in robust health, he first had a vague recollection of having mononucleosis, then recalled he had been treated for prostate cancer about a decade ago. "But that happened in the offseason," he said.


Fischler has had a long line of assistants and interns go on to journalism careers, including Newsday's Islanders beat reporter, Arthur Staple.

His current broadcast assistant is Rini Krishnan, who is six decades younger than Fischler but often a step behind.

"He's 83, I'm 23, and I need to drink at least five cups of coffee to keep up with him, especially on game nights," she said. "You have no idea. He gets up at, like, 8 in the morning. I'm struggling at noon. I am already on my fourth cup of coffee. And he's like, 'All right, let's go!'

"He's power-walking down the street and I'm panting behind him. Coffee runs through his veins. It's not blood; it's coffee."

It is evident in speaking to Fischler that good physical health is not the only thing behind his energy level. It also is his remarkable level of passion.

He considers himself a connoisseur of ice cream, egg creams, blizzards and Brooklyn arcana, but subways and hockey are his true loves. The subway came first.

When he was 3, he saw men digging up Marcy Avenue near his home in Williamsburg and asked his mother what was going on. It turned out a new subway line was being built.

By 1937, the Myrtle-Willoughby station had opened and Stan had started riding, always trying to peer out a window to observe the passing scene.

That never changed. He still seeks out the first car, thrilled at 83 just as he was at 5 to look out the front to see what is coming.

"That's the big kick," he said. "I never stopped looking out the front window . . . On the express, the excitement is how many locals are we going to catch and pass? That's always been a big deal."

And then there's the curvy track where the 7 train emerges in Queens . . . "It's like a roller coaster. Incredible excitement for somebody like me."

Fischler could go on, and does, loaded with a bottomless trove of stories and factoids related to subway operations and history, some of which he learned while covering the transit authority as a newspaperman in the 1950s and '60s.

For a subway maven, the brief section before Columbus Circle on the uptown express where the train goes from the smooth ride and sound of a welded track to the clickety-clack of an older stretch is a source of fascination.

"It's the old style for maybe about 20 seconds," he said, "but you can hear it and you can feel it."

Fischler often loses his train of thought because he frequently is reminded of a related story or joke, but he usually finds his way back on track. Eventually.


Hockey came into the picture in 1939, when he took the train from Myrtle-Willoughby to watch the New York Rovers of the Eastern League at the Garden on a Sunday afternoon. The next day, he aced a show-and-tell by talking about goalies.

"It was very exciting," he said. "I got a double dip. I went to see a hockey game and got an 'A' the next day."

Ask Fischler which he likes better, the subway or hockey, and he quickly answers, "Tie, tie."

Fischler left at 2 p.m. for Tuesday's game, taking the No. 1 train two stops from 110th Street to 96th, then the 3 into Brooklyn. (He prefers the 3 to the 2 because it has a quieter air conditioning system.)

After sending Krishnan to Shake Shack to procure a malted vanilla shake, he attended production meetings for both the Devils' telecast at 4 p.m. and the Islanders' at 4:30.

In a five-minute span during the latter, he managed to reference former Dodger Dolph Camilli and former Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach, and explained the difference between the Yiddish terms schlemiel and schlimazel to host Shannon Hogan.

Fans approached him before the game to take pictures, and one woman showed him a photo of her dog, who was named Stanley in his honor.

Come 6:30, he was on the set for the Islanders' pregame show, then took a seat to do what he enjoys as much as looking out the front window: watching another hockey game.

After a scare in 1995 when it appeared the Devils might move to Nashville, he is pleased that the Islanders still are in the neighborhood.

"I'm very happy because it's my home borough, number one, and I can take the subway, number two, and they're still here," he said. "This is the way it is. But from what I have seen, they are making the best of it."

Fischler, who usually does not cover games outside the metropolitan area, generally is home before midnight. On the ride back, he might take a nap or, more likely, schmooze with fans.

His wife, Shirley, died last year, and he has two grown sons, one living in Oregon and one in Israel. But he has no trouble staying busy, in part because of his boundless curiosity.

How does hockey remain fresh after all these decades? "It's like everything is new," he said. "The score, the action. The players are new . . . It's maybe like the subways for me. The subways could be very boring -- to other people."

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