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Retired and living in Israel, Stan Fischler still plugged into the NHL

Stan Fischler at UBS Arena on opening night

Stan Fischler at UBS Arena on opening night on Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: Newsday/Neil Best

"The Hockey Maven" still is a celebrity in his hometown, as evidenced by warm welcomes Stan Fischler received in recent visits to UBS Arena and Madison Square Garden.

But New York is not Stan Fischler’s home anymore. His primary residence is on an Israeli kibbutz called "El Rom" in the northern Golan Heights, which he called "The Jewish Montana."

"It’s 3,000 feet [in elevation], there’s cattle all around and not a hell of a lot of people," Fischler said in an interview with Newsday during a visit to the United States that will end later this month.

There is a Druze town named Buq’ata a mile or so away and the Syrian border is nearby. Members of the Israeli military are a frequent sight in the area, which has a history of geopolitical volatility.

Other than that, Fischler said, "When you get in the car or drive around, it’s mountains."

What about hockey, though? The sport has been his journalistic focus for decades, including covering the NHL for MSG Networks, from which he retired after the 2017-18 season.

He has written dozens of books on the sport, as well as others about another passion — the New York City subways.

Turns out hockey remains a big part of Fischler’s life, even in Israel. He still follows and writes about the NHL — even if it meant watching Islanders playoff games live in the wee hours of the morning last season.

He recently announced that he would be contributing to The Hockey News, of which he was an original subscriber in 1947 and for which he first wrote in 1955.

Closer to home, his grandson, Ariel, 15, and granddaughter, Avigail, 12, played the sport growing up in Israel and are spending this season in Switzerland with their father, Simon, to hone their skills against better competition.

Fischler described Avigail as a "prodigy."

"She’s mean on the ice," he said. "She’s playing with boys . . . She knocks boys on their [butt]. They look up and they can’t believe it."

The nearest rink to El Rom is the Canada Centre, about a 45-minute drive away near the Lebanon border. There is another about two hours away, and sometimes there were long drives to games in the Tel Aviv area.

(Fischler helped recruit former Devil and Ranger Bobby Holik to coach the Israeli national team.)

Fischler lives in an apartment adjacent to Simon’s wife and eldest daughter while the others are in Switzerland. His other son, Ben, lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

He described a daily routine of checking hockey results from the night before, writing, riding his bike for an hour in the afternoon, then coming home for dinner.

"I don’t do much else," he said. "I have a couple of friends who speak English. I don’t speak Hebrew. But it’s a very healthy life . . . When I open the door in the morning and I step out on the deck, it’s very, very fresh air.

"It reminds me of camp when I was a kid. The air in the Poconos, that was something distinct. Only now I get it every day."

Even though he likes his current lifestyle, Fischler admitted he misses the old one. When he was at the Islanders’ UBS Arena opener on Nov. 20, he was swarmed by fans.

The day before, at the ribbon cutting, "I saw all my MSG pals. For crying out loud, I got hugged twice by Shannon [Hogan]. I almost had a hat trick of hugs. It would have been a ‘hug trick’ if she hugged me one more time."

He called the reception by fans "overwhelming."

"I was eating it up," he said. "Anybody asked me for one of those ‘selfies’ or whatever the hell they call it, I’m there for them, because it’s nice to make people smile."

He added, "Frankly, I do miss that. But . . . I’m 89 years old and I’m very much a Zionist and very much feel a part of Israel."

Some Israelis know his background, including a group of Rangers fans in the Tel Aviv area who invited him to do a talk. "But mostly," he said, "I’m Mr. Anonymous."

On Thursday, Fischler will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Denver. He also has been promoting his latest book, "Tales of Brooklyn."

Fischler said the original impetus came from former MSG colleague Chico Resch’s wife, Diane. She encouraged him to write down an oft-told story about his Aunt Hattie and her passion for ice cream.

He did, and he kept writing more and more tales of his adventures in Depression- and World War II-era Brooklyn. He eventually found he had enough for a book.

"It never would have happened if Chico’s wife didn’t say, ‘I want you to put down in writing your Aunt Hattie ice cream story,’ " Fischler said.

How many books has he written? "I hate counting words and I hate counting books," he said. "It’s somewhere between 99 and 101."

Fischler, who saw his first hockey game in 1939, turns 90 on March 31.

"The old adage is: How do you stay young? The answer is, ‘I eat All-Bran,’ " he said. "But hockey has been part of it. I thought for a while I’d lose the enthusiasm, but watching the games, I find I’m really into it.

"I curse and so on and so forth. So I often say that chronologically, I may be 89, but when it comes to maturity, I’m just one year past my bar mitzvah. I’m striving for 15 but haven’t been able to get that far."

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