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Fischler Report: So You Want Your Son to be an NHL Star

Stan Fischler chats with former NHLer Jeff Chychrun about everything leading up to his son Jakob's rise to the big leagues. Plus, Fischler looks at the Hughes brothers, a heartwarming Buffalo Sabres story, the value of being a Presidents' Trophy winner and much more.


A dozen years ago a Florida buddy of mine named Steve Horowitz began raving about a kid player named Jakob. "Keep you eye on him for futures," Steve advised.

Since the lad lived in Boca Raton and played his kid hockey in the Sunshine State, the lad's name went in one ear -- and stayed there.

The name didn't go out the other ear because Jakob's last name happened to be spelled CHYCHRUN and his old man was Jeff, the NHL defenseman.

I knew Jeff as an honest blue liner from his days with the Flyers, Kings, Penguins and Oilers. I liked him as a player and as -- very important to me -- an interview. Therefore, I followed Jakob's meanderings and, lo and behold, he not only became a big-leaguer, but the former lad is also an Arizona star.

That told me I had to grab Jeff and find out how it all happened.

So, if you have a young hockey prodigy in your family,listen up and follow through. Here's what Jeff Chychrun revealed:


When he was 13 we started travelling to Detroit from South Florida so he could play in the Little Caesars program. His mom and I thought he'd have a chance to play at a higher level. He was ages 13 and 14 when he got the attention of the U.S. Development team program.


Agents and scouts from major junior, college and the USHL became evident because he was leading his team and excelling in tough situations. Truly, my wife and I didn't have to do anything; except handle the expenses of travel and allow the process to play itself out while we encouraged him to just work hard, enjoy hockey and focus on his schooling.


It happened during his second season in Detroit. Some people I trusted -- as well as others -- encouraged my wife and I to think about getting Jakob (special) status so he could move up and play in the Ontario Hockey League. We declined to do so because, in my mind, this wasn't necessary in the long-term. We decided to allow the process of letting him play, gain exposure and allow the Draft processes of the junior leagues to play itself out.


During Jakob's childhood, we had season tickets to the Panthers home games. As a result of that, he grew up liking specific Florida players. These included the likes of Olli Jokinen, Jaromir Jagr, Jay Boumeester and Thomas Vokoun, among others. I used to tell Jakob and our young defensemen to skate like Bouwmeeter because he was so smooth on his feet and his head was always up, surveying the ice, and seemed to be 'on a swivel.'


I'm sure there were times when Jakob had had enough of me and could communicate with my wife, Nancy. Fortunately for us, Jakob and I shared a very nice relationship and not much boiled over too loudly. I suppose that the toughest times were when he was quite young and we'd have the tiff on the bench but he seemed to mature and grow out of it over time.


Injuries are part of the game and he's had his share of them that he's overcome. But his desire and work ethic to come back stronger and better have prevailed. Dealing with coaches is like dealing with any boss at work; we all have to deal with the good and bad bosses.


He has confidence in himself as a player and man that allows him to deal with anyone running the bench. Regarding his 'seriousness' about the game, I've often said that you can't make anyone work that hard if they don't like what they're doing. To this point, Jakob loves playing hockey and the life he's built for himself and his focus on continuing to do so.


Prior to this past season, Jakob led all defensemen in total goals for defensemen over the two years before that. I think he has continued to improve his game away from and on both sides of the puck. I just want him to continue to excel on the attack and defending and be a strong leader for his club.



* A few years ago Ken Campbell did a neat piece on the Hughes Brothers -- Jack, Quinn, and the kid brother, Luke. A conclusion was that Luke could be the best of the three.

* Based on his World Junior Championship play, Luke has future Norris Trophy-winner written all over him.

* Upon further review -- just in my head -- Chris Kreider would have made a better choice as Rangers captain than Jacob Trouba.

* One good reason for that is that Kreider has been a lifetime Blueshirt, knows the team and the town a heck of a lot longer and better than Troobs.

* Want another reason? Kreider has all the best leadership instincts. And Chris is a better spokesman for the team.

* This is as good a time as any to remind Madison Square Garden historians that Brad Park's sweater and number should be hanging from the MSG ceiling. This coming season.

* The Blackhawks goalie coaches will be collecting overtime pay: their students will be Alex Stalock and Petr Mrazek.

* And that means that Chi's defensemen -- especially Seth and Caleb Jones -- better have career years.

* Good Move Department; David Quinn, the new Wise Man of San Jose, has hired Scott Gordon and Scott Warsofsky as his aides.

* Warsofsky's two-year coaching record with the Chicago Wolves is 71-25-6-7. He lost out in his bid to be Sharks head coach to none other than the guy who hired him, Quinn.

* I liked Gordon from his head coaching days on Long Island. He got the most out of what he had. Older Scott's experience will help younger Scott.



Editor's Note: Our weekly Who's Better? feature takes an unusual twist this week, turning it into a family feud among the estimable Hughes Hockey Clan. My man in The Garden State, George (I'm An Author) Falkowski -- promising to be objective -- takes on the challenge. Take it away Georgie:

How can you pick one NHL Hughes brother over the other? One, Jack, is on the verge of superstardom while older brother, Quinn, is stronger and wiser.

Jack has averaged better than a point a game for New Jersey. His only problem is staying healthy, avoiding wayward knee-to-knee hits, or being dumped on his shoulder. But a year older, stronger and wiser adds up to big things for him in 2022-23.

Playing for Vancouver, Quinn has averaged nearly a point a game with an incredible 60 assists from the blue line in 76 games last season. The only thing keeping him out of the media spotlight is that he toils on the West Coast in distant British Columbia.

Quinn may now skate in the shadow of Colorado's Cale Makar but not for long. They may be equals since they play different positions. But, maybe I should ask -- Is one better than the "Others?"

That's right. I say that "little" -- but, actually bigger -- brother Luke may be the best of the bunch! Also, a defenseman, Luke -- Hughes Number Three -- is already a star after his freshman season at Michigan. He lit up the competition and was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist.

Luke can skate as effortlessly as Scott Niedermayer with vision unmatched for someone who doesn't turn 19 until next month.

What's more, he's bigger (6-foot-2) than both brothers and weighs 190 pounds. When his sophomore season ends next March, he may join brother Jack in New Jersey.

You can see Luke in action playing for Team USA at the world juniors.

The answer to the "Who's Better?" question may be that Luke is better than his two brothers. And that begs the question: what was Ma Hughes feeding her boys when they were growing up?



Kenny Albert is writing his autobiography; no ghost-author necessary; this is Kenny all the way. What's more, it looms as a must-read because this not-so-little Albert doesn't fool around.

On that subject I speak with authority since I've known him since he was knee-high to a grasshopper and didn't know a microphone from a chocolate egg creme. (spelling in Brooklynese.)

There are many compelling things about Kenny but, for now, I'll touch on just two. No. 1, he roomed with coach Barry Trotz while both were working Baltimore Skipjacks games. And No. 2, we're talking about the son of legendary Marv Albert. Plus, he's the nephew of Steve Albert and Al Albert and I've worked tv hockey with every single one of them.

Imagine the pressure on Kenny and then realize how he's reached the top by superbly broadcasting every conceivable sport, except punchball on Vernon Avenue between Marcy and Nostrand in Brooklyn. (Where else?) More on this amazing -- and very down to earth -- star in future editions. Meanwhile, time out while Kenny Albert writes the last chapter of this enticing book-to-be.



Like many NHL teams, the Sabres are deeply involved with community activities; in this case, Buffalo and specifically a key partnership with Roswell Park Hospital. Among other notable things, Roswell Park does innovative cancer research and can use all the help it can get.

One group that annually helps out is the annual "Empire State Ride."

The two-wheeler ERS starts at Staten Island, New York City and concludes at Niagara Falls. The most recent event raised over $1.5 million for Roswell Park. With added grants, the figure balloons to $19.5 million for research.

A regular on this trek happens to be my buddy from MSG Networks, Steve Mars. The Plainview, Long Island resident -- a huge hockey fan as well as VP of Marketing Partnerships at Networks -- led the ride and survived again.

"We had a total of 220 cyclists and rode 558 miles to Niagara Falls," says Steve who pedals a Specialized Roubaix. "Several cancer survivors -- some still in treatment -- made the trip."

Being a lifetime cyclist myself -- on a 40-year-old GT Avalanche -- I can only say courageous work, Steve, and the rest of the guys and gals; Congratulations!


WHO SAID IT? "One of these days he might fight somebody, but right now, he just squeezes guys like they were an orange."




Frank Patrick has been acknowledged as one of the all-time builders of The Game. He also has been a creative ice genius responsible for more advances in style, rules and marketing than anyone.

Yet, ironically, Frank's older brother Lester is better known, more revered and generally written up. How come?

The turning point came in the 1920s when the brothers sold their Western Canada Hockey League to NHL teams and went their separate ways. Lester became manager-coach of the Rangers while Frank headed west to seek his fortune.

While Lester had orchestrated his Rangers to Stanley Cups in 1928 and 1933 Frank eventually returned to the NHL as a referee-supervisor. Art Ross then hired him to coach the Bruins in 1934. The love affair lasted a year and then exploded when their friendship ended with Frank being accused of drinking and not giving the Bruins proper leadership.

By the time Lester's Rangers won their third Stanley Cup in 1940, Frank had become the forgotten Patrick. There were reasons:

Unlike Lester, a Frank-coached NHL team never won a Cup. While Lester had center stage in New York City, Frank was hidden in smaller venues. Lester's two sons -- Lynn and Murray-- became New York hockey stars, none of Frank's kids could make that statement.

Nobody pinpointed the difference between the brothers better than Eric Whitehead, author of Hockey's Royal Family.

"The twilight years of Lester and Frank Patrick were marked with the same sense of contrast that had remained constant for most of their adult lives," noted Whitehead. " Lester's life, orderly, fulfilled and serene; Frank's disordered, troubled, plagued by disappointments and frustrations."

Lester's last hurrah was a "Night" held in his honor in November 1947 at Madison Square Garden before a game with the Maple Leafs. I was there as a fan, sitting in the end balcony soaking up every minute of the festivities.

Lester eventually returned to his home in Victoria, British Columbia. He died at the age of 76 on June 1, 1960. The presiding minister, Reverend A.I. Higgins stated: "Some men have played greater hockey, but no greater man ever played the game."

Frank could not attend. It was said he was too ill to come and, to a certain extent, that was accurate. Frank had lost his big brother and closest pal. Less than a month later -- June 29, 1960 -- Frank Patrick, 74, "one of hockey's most illustrious pioneers and most inventive genius," passed away.

The great Fred (Cyclone) Taylor said it best: "Frank simply died of a broken heart!"


BIG QUESTION: Aaron Vickers of asks: Will the Calgary Flames name a captain?

My Answer: The last team to win a Stanley Cup without having a captain was the 1972 Boston Bruins. But they had Bobby Orr; so who needed a captain? The Flames certainly do!



Granted, the Panthers were booted out of the playoffs in near record time, but they did win the Presidents' Trophy for having the best regular season NHL record.

That fact -- among other things -- has residual value. That means that the Cats enjoyed sellouts, stirred up a normally-apathetic media and, for a time, became pets of the local press. How much carry-over value that has remains to be seen.

Alan Greenberg, my chief Panther-watcher, has this to say:

"The Presidents' Trophy-winners keep bringing in new players, new coaches and new front office staff. But will that make them better?

"I doubt it. Goalie Andrew Hammond had a flash of brilliance a few years ago, but he's not a starter but, rather, inexpensive insurance.

"Other new guys are strictly bottom six. And as for Eric and Marc Staal coming to camp, I'd love to see the brothers regain their abilities since it would make for a good story, but that remains unlikely."



Like Stockholm and other big Swedish cities, Malmo has the potential to improve its hockey program. Fortunately, there now happens to be a most creative fellow who's recreating hockey's culture in the country's Southern city.

His name is Daniel Triesler, a scout for the Malmo Redhawks. This is one man who sees hockey things clearly and sees them whole. The "whole" is how he views players; not merely physically but what's inside a player as well.

A former player, Triesler puts an emphasis on character among his top priorities. His focus is on how well a player works with his teammates; how loyal he is to his community and other non-ice-related factors.

"To me," says Triesler, "a player's attitude is key. If a player has a bad attitude, we will not be able to work with him. I also want my players to be part of the community; and to help when help is needed. My players have to support each other on the ice."


ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Former NHL defenseman and Hall of Famer Babe Pratt. then a Canucks executive, on Vancouver strongman Jiri Bubla.



There's something very special about Bill Spaulding getting the New Jersey Devils play-by-play gig with MSG Networks.

He's the only guy in NHL history from the town of Horseheads, New York -- near Elmira -- to make it as a big-league hockey broadcaster.

Add to that the odds he had to overcome to get the gig. Just about everybody in the blah-blah business coveted the mike last held by the ultra-competent Steve Cangialosi. Cangi stepped down after 11 seasons in the booth.

"I'm thrilled about the opportunity to bring this season's stories to life for Devils fans on MSG Networks," says Spaulding. "The passion of Devils fans is unmatched and I'm looking forward to feeling all that energy firsthand at The Rock this fall."

Make no mistake, Spaulding didn't get this job with ease, and that explains why it required more than half a summer for the final cut to be made at 11 Penn Plaza.

My former MSG boss, Jeff Filippi, announced the hire and I know how wise Jeff is. For one thing, he kept me on the staff and for another, he had the wisdom to hire the Islanders tv interlocutor, Shannon Hogan, one of my favorite colleagues.

"Devils fans will love Bill's passion, enthusiasm and hockey knowledge," Filippi concludes.

Bill needs a nickname. Just as his predecessors, Doc Emrick and Cangi had their handles. I've got one for him -- SPEEDY SPAULDING!


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