MONTREAL — Legendary hockey writer Red Fisher was remembered as a man who “demanded excellence” at a funeral attended by former hockey players and executives as well as several of his media colleagues on Wednesday.
Saul (Red) Fisher, who died last week at 91, covered the Canadiens and hockey in general from the night of the Rocket Richard Riot in 1955 until he retired in 2012, covering most of the major events and breaking some of the biggest stories of his day. A Canadiens logo was displayed at the front of the room at the Paperman and Sons funeral home.
In a eulogy, his son Ian Fisher described his father as kind-hearted but firm in his principles.
“My father demanded excellence in everything — in hockey and writing, art, music, friendship,” he said, adding that he had a “dream team of friends” that included hockey players like Dickie Moore and people from the business and entertainment worlds.
Some attended the funeral. Former Canadiens players and general managers Serge Savard and Rejean Houle were there, as well as ex-Canadiens Ken Dryden, Rick Green and Chris Nilan and former Canadiens president Ronald Corey.
Savard recalled a unique individual from a time where players and reporters were closer than they are today.
“Red is Red,” Savard said after the funeral. “He started covering the Canadiens in ‘55 and not too many guys covered 17 Stanley Cups out of 24.
“Over the years he became a friend, if a reporter can be a friend. I became general manager and, you know Red, he was on top of things. There were no scoops that Red didn’t (already) know.”
Savard joined the Canadiens for the 1966-67 season. At the time, only five newspaper beat reporters covered the team. Today, there are more than 20 from a variety of media at any given practice.
“That’s another generation of reporters,” said Savard. “Him and Jacques Beauchamp, they had their own way to tell the players or the management they were doing the wrong thing. He did it in his own way. I don’t remember him ever really blast an athlete. He had his own way to see things.
“We had a lot of arguments. Like, probably the best team was the Canadiens in the 1970s that won four Stanley Cups and lost eight games one year, and he’d say ‘no it was in the fifties, the five Stanley Cups.’ I’d say Red, I don’t know. I was too young.”
Savard was surprised at the 1972 Summit Series, which pitted Canada against the Soviet Union, to learn that Fisher had friends across the league. Chicago Blackhawks star Stan Mikita, for one.
Ian Fisher thanked the Canadiens for observing a moment of silence for his father at a game on Saturday night and the media for toasting him with his favourite drink, Chivas Regal scotch, in the Bell Centre media lounge.