Stan Fischler is a broadcaster and scribe whose career covering the NHL is deeper and longer than even the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup drought. Google him, if you don’t know him, though he retired from regular MSG broadcast duty at the end of this last season.
He was there covering hockey in New York since before the Islanders’ inception, inclusive of the dynasty and all the many Faustian debts we later realized must follow.
His eighth decade of coverage was marked by such things as the entertaining post-game banter he’d have with former Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov, and his ability to ask the first question — concisely and insightfully — in many a post-game.
And this week, in the wake of John Tavares’ slow-walk departure from the Islanders, he’s been asking the question going through so many fans’ heads: What the hell took you so long to tell us you’re abandoning ship?
So, so much virtual ink has already been spilled and vented about why Islanders Nation largely feels betrayed, but in short: Everyone knew it was his right to walk away, his prerogative to explore options — but to take the team’s goodwill and the fans’ patience all the way through the draft (where the team pondered immediate upgrades to partner with Tavares) and through that long (and silent) week and into July 1, and then to say “I’m gone, and [two minutes later] oh by the way this was always a childhood dream here are my pj’s” ...that, that honestly felt like the kind of douchebaggery you regularly see from a gloating Leafs fan on social media.
Seen through Tavares’ lens, it was the most difficult, emotional dilemma of his life. But that doesn’t take any of the sting out of how it went down at the end.
Anyway, Fishler’s always been his own guy, sometimes whack and offbeat, sometimes too old school, but more often than not with his finger on the pulse of things. His inquisition started on Twitter in the wake of Sunday’s news, continued on the conference call Tavares had with New York media (where Fischler asked the first, pointed question), and expanded on Twitter again after the fact.
A few days later, people are already plenty tired of JT news, I get that. But we’re preserving this for posterity. When players (including Tavares) and fans and staff saluted The Maven upon his retirement this spring, I never imagined we’d see this a couple of months later.
But then that’s the thing about Stan, whether you agree with what follows or not: He respects Tavares, and it won’t stop him from saying what he really feels of the situation.
The Maven Questions Tavares
First, before that conference call with New York media:
Dear John Tavares: Thanks for being so available under difficult interviewing situations. Now one question: What took you so long to make this "Toughest Decision." Why didn't you tell @Islanders owners sooner?— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) July 1, 2018
Much sooner; as in soon enough so that the club you were so devoted to could make a move to compensate for your loss? Just wondering, pal.— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) July 1, 2018
For the Twitter-blocked, that read:
“Dear John Tavares: Thanks for being so available under difficult interviewing situations. Now one question: What took you so long to make this ‘Toughest Decision.’ Why didn’t you tell Islanders owners sooner?
“Much sooner; as in soon enough so that the club you were so devoted to could make a move to compensate for your loss? Just wondering, pal.”
During the conference call:
“John, what took you so long to make this decision? Why couldn’t this be done before the trade deadline so the Islanders could get something out of this? You knew you wanted to play for the Maple Leafs, why wasn’t this done better for the team you played so long for?”
(Personally, I think Tavares’ line that “Garth told me he wasn’t going to trade me, which I completely respected” sounds like an odd twist of phrase when the GM/ownership was doing him a favor.)
After the conference call, Fischler posted a column expanding on why he thought Tavares gave the Islanders a raw deal.
I pointed out that his actions — or non actions — hurt his former team but, in response, he preferred focusing on his feelings.
“I go with my gut,” he insisted; emphasizing how challenging his decision-making was during the off-season calling it “emotional” and “heavy.”
Still, the prospect of playing for his hometown Leafs was more tantalizing than returning to the team which had done everything possible to retain him.
He wasn’t done. The next day, Monday night, he echoed some fans who wondered why reporters on the call congratulated Tavares on his big bailout, and deked around the topic of the trade deadline request (all Tavares said was “when Garth told me he wasn’t going to trade me, I respected that,” dodging the widely reported bit that Camp Tavares had strongly urged the Islanders not to trade him):
You're right; Tavares ducked answering the tough questions. Some of the questioners were congratulating the guy. For what he did to his former team? Gimme a break!— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) July 3, 2018
Tavares did zero for the @NYIslanders in the homestretch when needed most. His cheery homilies in the conference call did not impress me. Not one bit.— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) July 3, 2018
Again, if you can’t access Twitter, that was:
“You’re right; Tavares ducked answering the tough questions. Some of the questioners were congratulating the guy. For what he did to his former team? Gimme a break!
“Tavares did zero for the Islanders in the homestretch when needed most. His cheery homilies in the conference call did not impress me. Not one bit.”
Wow. This wound? It’s still fresh.