I always wanted to be a goalkeeper.
At the age of 13, sitting in our Brooklyn living room, my father noticed that I was making awkward moves on the carpet. Very awkward.
"What in the world are you doing?" he asked.
"I want to be like (Rangers goalie) Charlie Rayner," I replied, "and he can do a perfect split. So, if I'm going to be a goalie, I guess I should be able to do a split.
Dad, that's what I'm doing now."
Ben Fischler gazed up and down his son's body, from toes to head and then explained: "Son I suggest you become a forward. You're about as close to a split as I am being the Empire State Building."
Stung to the core, I took his advice but never forgot my fantasy, nor did I ever expect to get it fulfilled. But then it happened.
After graduating from Brooklyn College, I eventually got a job as a hockey writer for the New York Journal-American newspaper which then had the largest evening circulation in the country.
My beat as a reporter was to cover the New York Rangers which, for me, was a job made in Hockey Heaven. At the time, the Blueshirts carried two netminders; Ed Giacomin and Cesare Maniago.
Although he later became a Hall of Famer, Giacomin was having a hard time early in his career and I pointed it out several times in my articles. Finally, Maniago was given the top job and Giacomin was dispatched to the minors.
Right at that time, I chose to fulfill my fantasy. I asked the Rangers publicist, John Halligan, if I could do a feature. I'd put on the pads after a scrimmage and have right wing Rod Gilbert take 15 shots at me of various kinds
Halligan agreed and one cold morning I showed up at the practice rink and -- unpleasant surprise of unpleasant surprises -- who was there but Giacomin, packing his bags for the AHL.
He stared at me for a moment, said nothing and then left. Meanwhile, I put on all the tools of ignorance but would not wear either a mask nor a helmet.
I went out on the ice finding Gilbert -- another future Hall of Famer -- already practicing his shot.
Meanwhile, I was trying to get used to all the equipment which was big for me since Maniagor happened to be one of the tallest goalies in captivity.
"Are you ready?' asked Rod.
"As ready as I'll ever be," I gulped.
The accompanying photos attest to how ready I was NOT.
Gilbert beat me on the backhand, forehand, wrist shot, and semi-slapshot. Fortunately, he did everything but break my glasses.
He had now scored on 14 out of 14 attempts and this was the finale. Rod made it a wrister and I guessed it was going to my left.
So, I threw out my left arm, figuring that might help; and it did, but not the way it was supposed to help.
What happened was that my left glove -- far too big on me -- flew off my hand and, believe it or not, struck the puck in mid-air, deflecting it harmlessly to the corner.
I lifted my paddle in triumph and figured one save out of 15 Gilbert shots was my fantasy was fulfilled.
With my cameraman at my side, I drove back to the Journal-American office and wrote my story, accompanied by assorted pictures depicting how NOT to play goal.
Of course, I had to have a good punch line for the story so I noted that after playing duck in a shooting gallery, I refused to talk to the press!