My Grandchildren, The Hockey Players

Two Fischlers move to Switzerland to play pucks. Two Sharks issues. Leafs expectations. Henrik back in New York. Fred Stanfield passes.

The "Happening" that I never thought would happen is happening.

My son, Simon --The Coach -- is off for Switzerland with two of my grandchildren to find out if they can be real hockey players.

That is, not just Israeli stickhandlers, which they've been for the past few years. And not too bad at that, I might add.

Is there a difference? Will playing for the HC Thun (Switzerland) team turn them into high -- or higher -- class performers?

That's the question that only will be answered in the months ahead.

This much is certain: I was against the go-Swiss idea when it originally was hurled at me a couple of years ago. 

It just didn't make sense since the kids already were stickhandling on an Olympic-sized Canada Centre rink in Metula, just a 45-minute drive away from where we live in the North Golan Heights.

So, what changed my mind?

Both Ariel, the 15-year-old center, and Avigail -- his kid-sister -- at 12, showed me a blend of dedication, concentration and attention to detail beyond all hockey reason. 

"They proved that they really cared," says Simon, their dad. "The motivation to get better is burning inside of them."

Coach Dad has worked diligently with both kids virtually every day of every week of every month for the past four years. And that's not just on ice but also roller blades here on the tennis court at their Kibbutz El Rom.

"We love hockey and want to be the best we can be," says Ariel, who happens to be the only Rangers fan in the crowd.

Ditto for Avigail who -- a few years ago --once couldn't lift the six-ounce hunk of vulcanized rubber called a puck. Now she fires away slapshots, wrists shot and the other day a new one.

"It's the snapshot,'" she says. Which means that it's somewhere between the wrist and slapper. 

All I know is that she has destroyed several targets that were put along the brick wall on our deck and the broken pieces of plastic look like hockey flak sprinkled all over the concrete floor.

Make no mistake, this Fischler Expeditionary Force is not a guaranteed success. Although the kids have skated with and against their Swiss counterparts a few times in Bern -- real scrimmages and games are something else.

"I'm enthused about giving Ariel and Avigail this opportunity," says Simon, "because I believe in their skill level and their dedication. Plus, I feel that they'll get the best opportunity to get even better in Thun and Bern."

That said, they jetted over to Switzerland yesterday and expect to be thrust into training either today or tomorrow.

School arrangements have been made for both kids while Simon will set up a European branch of Fischler Hockey which publishes JAVA JIVE and Monday's FISCHLER REPORT, among other aspects of the ice business.

"European hockey is growing faster than ever and we want to be as much a part of it as we can," Simon explains. "I'm hoping to coach on some level and perhaps even do some scouting for an NHL team over here."

As my late, great pal, Howie Sparer used to tell me."What's life without a little adventure?"

This looks like a big Fischler adventure. 

For inspiration, I gave Simon my copy of Conn Smythe's autobiography, "If You Can't Beat 'Em In The Alley." 

Smythe was a World I and World War II medal-winning hero and one of the most dynamic leaders of the Maple Leafs and the NHL.  The book is a terrific inspiration.

Ditto for Red Dutton's book "Hockey -- The Fastest Game On Earth." 

This was the first hockey book I ever read; as an eight-year-old in Brooklyn's Tompkins Park Library. That one was in 1940 when I was eight years old. 

I later was given a copy as a gift showed both Avigail and Ariel the two words that Dutton opened with and closed his book.

I told the kids; when they're feeling down for any reason, check Dutton's words of advice: KEEP PUNCHING!

Hopefully, The Fischler Expeditionary Force will have a successful run on the Swiss side. So, stay tuned. 

You can bet that I will!


HEADLINE: A COUPLE OF SHARK BITES

THE JIVE: There are two compelling issues concerning the Sharks future in 2021-22 and the NHL.com's John Lane perfectly targets them: 1. Could Tomas Hertl be traded before the season ends? 2. Will goaltending -- a sore spot last season for coach Bob Boughner -- improve with the new tandem?

As for Hertl, he has his own questions: "I wonder if San Jose will want to re-sign me and if I'll want to be there?" My answer is, sure they'll want to re-sign you, if you show that you're the asset they hope you'll be. Last season Hertl went 19-24-43 in 50 games. 

Goaltending is another issue; and a serious one at that. Neither Martin Jones nor Devan Dubnyk did the job last season. Boughner is hoping for better things out of the combo of Adin Hill and James Reimer. 

"We're looking forward to both guys strengthening the position," BB says. Frankly, I've been a Reimer fan from 'way back. I like what San Jose has in the crease. Boughner is hoping too.


HEADLINE: PUTTING THE LEAFS IN PERSPECTIVE

THE JIVE: From here to eternity, the Maple Leafs remain a source of fascination because -- for all their wealth -- they never get the goodies. The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons offers this perspective: "For every goal that Auston Matthews scores and Mitch Marner sets up, they'll be a slight shrug and a question: 'What does it matter if it isn't April?' This will be a long season of anticipation waiting to see who and what the Maple Leafs turn out to be." (Some of us have the answer in one word: floperoo!)


HEADLINE: LUNDQVIST STILL GETTING HEADLINES

THE JIVE: Now retired but still the subject of debates -- Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? -- Henrik Lundqvist proved one of the stars at the U.S. Open but not with a racquet. The King and his gorgeous wife were spectators at the tennis showdown sitting right behind Hollywood's Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper.

Not surprisingly the quartet's picture made the tabloids. What remains to be seen -- and known -- is what the retired Rangers icon will do next. I say, Henny, write a book. It will sell out faster than you can say Tom Wilson!


HOW TO TELL THAT THE PENGUINS ARE WORRIED ABOUT TRISTAN JARRY:

THE JIVE: Pittsburgh's front office twins, Brian (I Still Like Fighting) Burke and Ron (Me Too!) Hextall have decided that Tristan (Sieve or Not-Sieve?) Jarry is an issue. Sort of the iceberg in the way of the Good Ship Penguins. 

Burkie and Hexy can't pretend that the iceberg doesn't exist. And that explains why they've imported a goalie doctor named Andy Chiodo to write prescriptions for Joltin' Jarry. 

My guess is that if Dr. Chiodo will decide that his patient is suffering from 5-hole-itis, If so,the good goalie doctor will prescribe that Tristan try a modified butterfly. "Do a 'Moth' instead," I can hear the puck medic suggest. And if the moth doesn't work, then comes "The Grasshopper." (In the meantime, good luck to you, Andy Chiodo, as I'm chiding you in the spirit of good, clean fun.)


THE PASSING OF FRED STANFIELD

Fred Stanfield, who died earlier this week at 77, was what I call "The Hockey Player's Hockey Player." The former Blackhawk and Bruin forward played the game hard but clean, a rarity with Bobby Orr and the Big, Bad Bruins. A point man -- with Orr -- on the Boston power play, the Toronto native packed a wicked slapshot.

During a playoff game against the Blues, a Stanfield blast struck St.Louis goalie Jacques Plante in the (then molded) face mask shattering it into many pieces. Plante collapsed to the ice and looked dead for about a half-minute; a testimonial to Stanfield's shot.

Notorious for another reason, Fred was third man in one of the most one-sided deals in hockey history. Chicago sent forwards Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Stanfield to Boston for center Pit Martin, defenseman Gil Marotte and minor league goalie Jack Norris. The latter pair were disasters while Martin -- an okay forward -- couldn't wear Espo's skates.

Meanwhile the new Bruins paced the Beantowners to Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972. Stanfield, who became a successful businessman, died of heart and kidney failure. R.I.P.