Red Fisher, legendary Canadiens sportswriter, dead at age 91

Red Fisher, who chronicled every Montreal Canadiens star from Maurice Richard to Carey Price, has died. He was 91.

Montreal sportswriter's 1st assignment was the infamous Richard Riot of 1955

Longtime Montreal sportswriter Red Fisher passed away Friday at the age of 91. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Legendary hockey writer Red Fisher has died.

The Montreal Gazette, where he worked the last 33 years of his career, reported on Friday that Fisher died at age 91.

The Montreal native covered the Canadiens through their glory years starting in 1955.

His first hockey assignment on March 17, 1955 turned out to be the Richard Riot, when violence that began at the Montreal Forum over the controversial suspension of Maurice (Rocket) Richard for hitting a referee spilled into the streets.

He covered Canadiens teams that won five Stanley Cups in a row in the 1950s as well as dynasty teams in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also at the 1972 Summit Series between NHL players and the Soviet national team and most other major hockey events over six decades.

'Master storyteller'

"For over 50 years, in his beloved Montreal, Red Fisher was unrivaled in hockey journalism — the authoritative English voice of news about the Canadiens and the National Hockey League," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Red had a remarkable passion for the sport and a remarkable compassion for the men who played it. Red's words were important because nobody knew the game or the players or the executives better.

"In addition to being a master storyteller, on a personal level, he was a friend and counsellor. He was a monumental presence in our world and the NHL family grieves his passing. We send condolences to his family, friends and all who were touched by him."

Fisher was known for his no-nonsense approach to his job and for his personal rules, including his refusal to talk to rookies. He would sometimes walk away if a player answered his questions with cliches.

"Red was a titan. He had the respect and, dare I say, a little bit of fear from the players," said Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated contributor and former longtime columnist at The Montreal Gazette, where he met Fisher.

"Red was the best game story writer that we ever read. These weren't typical game stories, these were novellas. These were 800 words of plot and characters and heroes and villains. He made the game come alive," Farber said.

Fisher was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame but fell out with the organization when they opted to put media members in a lesser category than hockey players and builders.

Fisher retired in 2012, at the age of 85.

"While he grew away from the players, in part because of his age and at the end he wasn't travelling with the team, he knew the game and he knew what made a hockey player tick. That was something that translated through any generation," Farber said.

Fisher was named to the Order of Canada on Dec. 29.

In its obituary, the Gazette reported Fisher's wife of 69 years, Tillie, died on Jan. 9, 2018, at age 90.

Fisher is survived by children Ian and Cheryl, and grandson Ryan. 

With flies from CBC News

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