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Writer-Reporter Paul Fichtenbaum isn't sure how many nights in a row he watched at least one hockey game during one long stretch last winter. However, there were signs that he had seen too many. For one thing, he could tell the Sutter twins—Ron of the Philadelphia Flyers and Rich of the St. Louis Blues—apart out of uniform. He even knew the lie of Wayne Gretzky's stick. Finally, when a friend called one evening to ask if Fichtenbaum wanted to come over to watch an Islander-Canadiens game on TV, Fichtenbaum decided that enough was enough. He said he was going to rent a video instead.
"What movie are you going to watch?" his friend asked him.
"Slap Shot," Fichtenbaum replied.
Let the record show that Fichtenbaum will deign to watch the occasional football, baseball or basketball game, but come September, he's always hungry for hockey, which is fine with us. When he's not writing a story himself or helping with the on-site coverage of an event, as he did for this week's article on the Stanley Cup finals (page 46), Fichtenbaum is fact checking. The writers at SI forecheck and the editors backcheck, but the fact checkers, like goalies, take the blame should an error appear in the magazine. And like a good goaltender, Fichtenbaum, 29, has a stand-up style that challenges false assumptions and flabby statistics. What's more, he possesses fast reflexes on tight deadlines.
Fichtenbaum got his first opportunity to cover the sport that he loves after he graduated from Brooklyn College, in 1983, when he took a job as a reporter and copy editor at the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance. The overnight hours weren't ideal—"I learned to eat lunch at 3 a.m.," he says—but he did appreciate the instantaneous access to the late-night hockey scores.
Fichtenbaum went on to spend four years as an editor and writer at Sport magazine and nine months as a writer at the now defunct Sports inc. before joining SI in September 1989. Among the stories he has written for us are profiles of Michigan State hockey star Kip Miller (March 19) and the Washington Capitals' surprising playoff star, John Druce (May 7).
Of course, now that the NHL season is over, the long hot summer begins for Fichtenbaum. He has marked Sept. 8 on his calendar with a mixture of horror and joy. "The bad news is, that's my 30th birthday," he says. "But on the bright side, the Rangers open training camp the same day."