Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Red Fisher: A Distinguished Writing Career

All is right in the world of the Montreal Canadiens. After eight games into the 2013 schedule,  they have strung together a 6-2-0 record and are a sparkling 5-1-0 at home.

While fans are enjoying the Habs success, one important ingredient is missing. For the first time in decades, writer Red Fisher is no longer providing his take on the club. The Hall of Fame scribe retired after last season leaving a huge hole for readers who enjoyed his work.

In March of 1954, Red Fisher joined the sports writing team at the Montreal Star on a full-time basis. Fisher was given the plum assignment of covering the Montreal Canadiens. Then, in 1955, Ken Edey, who served as the Star's managing editor, had a proposal for Fisher - writing a regular column for the paper.

The rest as they say is history.

Fisher won the National Newspaper Award for sports writing twice - in 1971 and 1991. Besides winning in this category, Fisher received two nominations. In 1999, Fisher was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Sports Media Canada.

Perhaps, the most stunning statistic of Fisher's run is the number of Montreal Stanley Cup victories he covered - 17 of 24 for the Star and later the Gazette.

Writing the Forward for Fisher's autobiography (Hockey, Heroes, And Me, 1994), Ken Dryden begins with this thought, "I wonder what Red thinks." The Canadiens Hall of Fame goalie goes on to complete the thought in this passage:

 It would happen two or three times a year. When things were going badly for the team or me. When after a game, sleepless and alone, staring into the darkness of my office, I could find no answers. I did it with no one else. In a few hours, when the Star or later the Gazette was at the front door, I would know.
 I didn't always agree with him, and when I didn't I would get angrier than I did with anyone else. I wanted so much for him to be wrong, and knew he probably wasn't
 Red was the good critic. The voice outside ourselves everyone needs and rarely has. Smart, tough, a voice that has no other agenda.
In the Introduction to his book, Fisher shares this exchange with a staff member of the New York Islanders. The conversation occurred early in the 1991-92 hockey season.

"Still hanging around, eh?" asked the Islanders employee.

"I'm not hanging around, I'm working at it," replied Fisher.

"Oh, sorry about that. Well then, how long do you plan to hang around?" was the next question directed at Fisher.

"Until, I get it right," said Fisher.

This is one of many great stories in what the Toronto Star called "A wonderfully readable book...Incredible stuff."

And by the way Mr. Fisher, none of us buy the "until I get it right" theory for your longevity.

That happened a long, long time ago.

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