1999 Red Fisher

Red Fisher
by Fred Walker

“He’s combative, arrogant, smart, amusing, compassionate, wealthy, a winner, a good family man”. That’s part of how Red Fisher began his description of Glen Sather in his book, Hockey, Heroes, and Me. Red could just as easily have begun his autobiography in the same fashion. In fact, most of those characteristics apply to the vast majority of successful people. Even writers. But Red Fisher is not just a writer. He is an award-winning writer. Twice in his career he has been honoured with National Newspaper Awards.

Red Fisher

Red Fisher

Red wrote for the old Montreal Star then and if you followed hockey, you read Fisher. He knew everything there was to know about the Montreal Canadiens and the National Hockey League. The NHL was headquartered in Montreal in those days and Clarence Campbell was its president, a post he held from 1946 to 1977. Campbell and Red didn’t always see things eye-to-eye. Mostly, because Red, being the reporter he is, never shied from writing what he knew to be the truth. A case in point occurred in June of 1970. Clarence Campbell delivered his confidential financial report to the NHL’s Board of Governors. In it one sentence stood out: “Even though our return to the players last season was at an all-time low, our profits were at an all-time high.” When Red was shown a copy of the confidential report, his next move was to tell the Star’s editor-in-chief that he’d like to do a five-part series on the report. The report was a gold mine of numbers, salaries and benefits NHL owners kept to themselves in those days. For his five-part series, Red Fisher received his first National Newspaper Award.

The second time he was accorded this honour was when Red wrote the heart-wrenching story of former Canadiens’ coach Toe Blake and his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

For many there is seldom a cost involved with winning an award. For Red, the five-part series that brought him his first National Newspaper Award resulted in his being blackballed for a time from his weekly appearances on Hockey Night In Canada television and radio programs.

Red had a ‘charmed’ way of being in the right place at the right time. Take for instance, St. Patrick’s Day, 1955. His first major assignment in hockey for the Montreal Star was to cover the Canadiens game at the Forum and a riot broke out, the infamous “Richard Riot.”

If it’s hockey and it’s a big story, chances are Red Fisher has covered it. From the 17 of 24 Stanley Cups the Canadiens have won over the years to the Summit Series of 1972 between the NHL and the Soviet Union. And the Soviet-WHA series of 1974. And he’s still at it!