When Daniel Fleschner ’01 was a little boy, he did what many little boys do — he pretended to be the sportscaster for many of the games he watched on television, announcing the play-by-play and adding his own two cents. Yet Fleschner’s desire to communicate his love of sports with others did not end when he outgrew the kids’ section of the department store. Rather, Fleschner took this desire and ability with him as he traveled from high school, to college and beyond.
“Since I’ve been aware of the world, I’ve been into sports,” Fleschner said.
Just last month, Fleschner published his first book, “Bulldogs on Ice,” a pictorial history of Yale men’s hockey, examining the players, the coaches and the game’s history from 1896 to the present. After a two-page introduction, Fleschner traces the history through a series of pictures with captions from 100 to 150 words.
As an undergraduate, Fleschner was completely entrenched in Yale athletics. Even before coming to Yale, however, he had expressed a deep interest in sports coverage. He was the sports editor of Woodbridge’s Amity High School’s newspaper and even interned for Yale’s Associate Athletic Director and Sports Publicity Director, Steve Conn, the summer after his sophomore year.
From the very beginning, Fleschner proved he had a unique talent. After interning for Conn during the summer, Fleschner quickly proved his abilities and gained a job working for Conn before graduating from high school. He helped research, write programs and even announce. By the time he arrived at Yale his freshman year (he applied early), Fleschner had already carved out a role for himself.
In his first year at Yale, Fleschner announced games for WYBC. Starting with field hockey, Fleschner worked his way up to the hockey play-by-play his sophomore year. He also continued to work for Conn in the archives of the Athletics Department.
Everyone who knew Fleschner was impressed by his abilities.
“He was a great man who, as an undergraduate, really, really loved the working side of sports,” men’s ice hockey head coach Tim Taylor said. “He was a tireless worker, a great statistician, and he was terrific at announcing.”
Looking back on his senior year, Fleschner remembers discussing the fact that no one had ever written a book on Yale hockey with Conn and Geoff Zonder, the athletics archives assistant. Though there were books on Yale football and Yale crew, no one had ever examined the history of the hockey team.
Fleschner was interested in taking on the task, but did not have time to do so as an undergraduate. After college, however, he began to work at NBC as a sports researcher and last fall began the project in his spare time. Returning to where he had once worked, Fleschner used the athletics archives to gradually compile a working history of the team.
He gathered photographs and clippings and spoke to many of the players themselves. He communicated with some players through e-mail and met with other in person. He uncovered interesting facts about many players which far outdated their Yale athletic days. Perhaps it is no surprise that several Yale hockey players went on to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. However, it is a lesser known fact that other players went on to serve in the army, that one player became the Secretary of State, and that one player worked for the CIA.
Cyrus Vance ’39, was a three-year letter winner, and, as Fleschner describes, ended up having one of the “most visible and prominent careers” of any player. Vance graduated from Yale Law School in 1942, served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, was the secretary of the U.S. Army in 1961 and 1962, the Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1964-1967, a U.S. negotiator to the Paris Peace Conference after Vietnam in 1968, and then finally served as Secretary of State from 1977 to 1980, under President Carter. Vance was only the second Secretary of State to resign for ideological reasons — he opposed Carter’s handling of the Iran hostage crisis.
Like Vance, Cord Meyer ’43 also served in World War II, losing an eye. Yet, Meyer went on to work for the CIA. It was even speculated that Meyer might have been a candidate for “Deep Throat” in the Watergate scandal.
Beyond these personal stories, Fleschner also offers accounts of several key games and seasons. He mentions the 1967 game at Cornell, where the Bulldogs handed the eventual national champions their only defeat of the season.
Taylor, who has been Yale’s head coach for 27 years, was extremely happy with how the book turned out.
“It’s terrific,” Taylor said. “He really captured the essence of all the tradition and the storied history of Yale hockey. The book really brings it all to life.”
Taylor said he was only sad that the book couldn’t be a “living volume” — that it could not be updated all the time.
Conn said that Fleschner was the ideal person to write the book.
“He was the perfect person to do it because of his diligence, his research ability, his writing skills and his networking,” Conn said. “He’s good at asking the right questions, at making people comfortable, and at getting information.”
Furthermore, Conn said that he thinks there are many opportunities awaiting Fleschner in the future.
“I would not be surprised if Dan became the play-by-play announcer for the New York Rangers if he wanted,” Conn said.
As of now, Fleschner has no specific plans for the future. Working in NBC’s New York office, he already won an Emmy for his contributions to the network’s coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
“I’m just sort of seeing where this leads,” Fleschner said. “If an opportunity to go on air were to come my way, I’d pursue it, but I’m happy just doing what I’m doing.”