Sitting in the press box at M&T Stadium, I can’t help but shake the feeling that I won’t be able to make it to Toronto for tomorrow’s NHL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. At the luncheon preceding the Hall of Fame ceremony, Dave Fay will be posthumously bestowed the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for meritorious service to the field of hockey journalism.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost four months since Dave, the Washington Capitals beat writer for The Washington Times, lost his long battle with cancer. Going to Verizon Center to cover Caps games this season has been a constant reminder of Dave’s absence. For the decade that the Capitals have called the building home, Dave usually sat to my right, and we’d developed a wonderful friendship that transcended the games we covered. I miss my friend.
Dave was old school to the core, cantankerous, curmudgeonly and short on patience for folks who didn’t know and appreciate the game. When he considered you a compatriot, and later a friend, you knew you had reached a certain level of respect among your peers. He was the kind of newspaperman that is in short supply in these days of Internet-driven coverage, someone who worked the phones, worked his sources, ferreted out information and usually beat his competition. Including me.
But I got to know a different Dave Fay than the guy with the piercing stare asking the tough questions. Over the years, we found we shared a lot in common — an affinity for Marriott hotels (and points!) and a love of Jimmy Buffett’s island-inspired music. The first time the sea of parrotheads parted at Merriweather Post Pavilion, and I spotted Dave sporting a parrot bucket hat, I was shocked. Every year, we’d trade opinions of the latest CD release, plan our ticket-buying strategy and lament the debacle that is the process of exiting Nissan Pavilion.
I miss my friend. Soon, the press box at Verizon Center will boast a plaque honoring Dave. It’s a wonderful gesture by the team he covered so diligently and a fitting reminder of what hockey meant to Dave.
Monday afternoon, his widow, Pat Fay, will accept the Ferguson award in his memory. There have been plenty of tears shed over Dave’s passing, and he’d get his Irish dander up at the thought of people crying over him. Dave much preferred a celebration or a party, and that’s what his Hall of Fame moment will be.
For most of the past 15 years, I was proud to call Dave a coworker. I’m prouder to have called him my friend. He was a Hall of Fame person before he was a Hall of Fame writer, and the celebration in Toronto will drive home that point.