The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/22/13 at 11:00 AM ET
One of the hardest parts of taking part in the Red Wings' summer development camp from a Wings fan's perspective was watching Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer skate so elegantly, seamlessly and skillfully, leading the way in explaining some of Tomas Storm's skill development drills and Andy Weidenbach's power skating drills while displaying nothing less than technically perfect form.
Fischer still possesses an elite skill set at 32 years of age, and while Fox Sports Detroit's Art Renger noted that Fischer's answers are a little more measured as a member of the Wings' front office, he's still remarkably forthcoming, downright eloquent and incredibly passionate about his role as a hands-on player mentor.
When I spoke with Phillipe Hudon regarding Fischer's role with the team, his eyes lit up, and Hudon spoke with deference regarding Fischer's willingness to email, text, and head right up to Victoriaville, Quebec to spend a couple of days working with Hudon on the ice and helping him off the ice as well, gleaning knowledge from coaches and management before giving the player, "Here's what you need to focus on" prescriptions in an incredibly supportive environment.
Every prospect I've spoken with regarding Fischer has a similar-to-the-same reaction, and Fischer himself seems incredibly happy balancing being a husband and father with essentially serving as a second dad for the Wings' prospects, so I don't feel any particular pangs of, "Oh, what could have happened had Fisch's heart not stopped beating in 2005" pangs anymore, and it's clear that he's moved on as well.
Still, it is hard to watch him skate and think, "What if?"
Via RedWingsFeed, Fox Sports Detroit's Regner spoke with Fischer about the incident that ended his playing career and his not-so-new-anymore role with the team, and I'm going to focus on the, "What he's doing now and is very happy doing" part of Regner's article instead of his lengthy discussion of the event that changed the course of Fischer's career:
Red Wings GM Ken Holland quickly offered Fischer a position in the organization, and he’s about to enter his seventh season as Red Wings director of player development. It's a job that takes Fischer across the globe, mentoring Detroit’s prospects on hockey, education and, most important, life.
Last week in Traverse City, Fischer, Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill and Wings assistant GM Ryan Martin were in charge of running the prospects camp. Until this year, the camp was set up by Jim Nill, who recently left the organization to become GM of the Dallas Stars. There was Fischer looking every bit like a young executive: cell phone in hand, texting constantly, answering questions from Wings officials and rink employees, pumping up the prospect and occasionally doing an interview with the media.
But something has changed. He's now much more guarded with his answers than he was a player. Back then, he’d talk for hours with an enthusiasm and zest unmatched by most players.
“I really enjoy my job,” Fischer told me last week. “Over the last seven years, what I’ve really appreciated is all the mentors, starting with Ken Holland. "He’s a special man. There is nobody like him. I’m totally convinced he’s the smartest man in hockey.”
When I tried to press him about his aspirations -- if he hoped to someday follow in Holland's and Nill’s footsteps, be a general manager in the NHL -- Fischer doesn't seem to look that far into the future.
“Let’s just go a day at a time," he said. "I enjoy where I’m at."
Which makes sense. If anybody knows how precious each day of life is, it’s Jiri Fischer.
At this point, Fischer has two young sons and another 25-or-so "kids" to mentor, and it's very, very evident that Fischer enjoys what he's doing because hands-on work with young hockey players = as close as he's going to get to playing the game. Swapping out his role for a managerial one would take him away from the job that's become his passion, and there's just no point in rushing things right now.
Jiri Fischer will never play hockey at a professional level again, and that still feels like a tragedy to fans like you and me, but he's moved on, he has fulfilling personal and professional lives, and he's happy.
That's all that really matters.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.