"I started watching hockey in '39. The Americans were still playing into the '41-'42 season, I'm living in Brooklyn. By that time I'm 10 years old, so I was very deep into hockey with what the hell is going on. And I knew that Red Dutton changed the name from the New York Americans to the Brooklyn Americans because he wanted to build a Brooklyn rink for the club downtown, right about where the Barclays Center is, where we are now. So I was very aware that something like that might happen, and of course the dream was, since I lived within walking distance, 582 Marcy, near Myrtle, I could walk to the games. That was a nice dream. Now I subway to Barclays. I take it all the time. I get on my home stop 110th and Broadway, I take the local to 96th and then I catch the 2 or the 3 and they go right to here.
What's the commuting time?
Oh about 40 minutes, or about five pages in a book. I read slow.
When did you start realizing that your dream of NHL hockey in Brooklyn might become a reality?
During the last lockout (2012), when they announced that the team would be coming here, I came here, they had a press conference, the commissioner Gary Bettman was here, Charles Wang of the Islanders. Already the building was done, the signing was the fait accompli, dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's. Naturally I was excited about it because I knew exactly where Dutton was... I used to play hockey at the Brooklyn Ice Palace where Dutton's Americans used to practice in '41-42, and the Ice Palace was only about a 10-minute walk from here. It was on Atlantic between Nostrand and Bedford.
You didn't ask me how I played hockey.
Well, how did you play?
The answer is badly.
|There Used to be a Ballpark|
The first thing I did was get goose pimples. From the very first time I went to Madison Square Garden in 1939 I was absolutely awe-struck by the whole hockey scene, the ice, the color the whole thing. Even when I worked for the Rangers in 1954-55, the first thing I would do is walk into the building and just look at the ice, it always fascinated me. Of course the fact that this thing was in Brooklyn just knocked me out. Plus it was done very classy, with a color guard and with the anthem sung. What I did, which was sort of a reflex going back to when I was in publicity, I always looked around to see the crowd, to see a full house, a very intense, high decibel count, it was the equal of Nassau Coliseum, which I loved also. It was a combo. I get goose pimples for certain songs, and certain events, and of course when I think about hockey I think about the fact that it was my father that took me to a game. If it wasn't for that, who knows what would have happened?
Of all the New York boroughs, where does Brooklyn rank?
I grew up in Brooklyn. People ask me where I'm from, if I go to visit relatives elsewhere, in Israel with my son, I say "From Brooklyn." Always Brooklyn. I went to Brooklyn College, my father and mother were both born in Brooklyn. I lived at 582 Marcy for 22 years, you can't get more Brooklyn than that.
I covered the Dodgers for the Journal American newspaper when they won the Series in '55, also covered Game 7 in '56 when they lost to the Yankees. Just recently when my grandchildren were here from Israel with my son Simon, we went to Coney Island, twice. Not for the rides, but for the beach because it was warm. You can't have more Brooklyn than Coney Island and Nathan's hot dogs and the whole schmear.
Didn't you play a lot of paddle ball on Coney Island?
I haven't played paddle for about three years. The last guy I played paddles with was Alan Kreda of the Times, and I beat the crap out of him, he can tell you that. Brooklyn is a good place for paddles. I was supposed to play Sean Avery and he backed out. Lame excuse, too. Of course, I love paddles.
Do these Islander games against Tampa remind you of "The Bums" heartbreaks against the Yankees?
Of course. I was there in '41 when Mickey Owen missed the third strike and Tommy Henrich goes to first base, DiMaggio comes up and starts the kill. That scar never goes away for anybody who was around then. The Dodgers theme was always "Wait Until Next Year," until finally '55. Losing in overtime the way they (the Islanders) did, it was "Wait Until Next Game."