Dave Fay, 1940-2007

Longtime Washington Times beat writer Dave Fay, the dean of Washington hockey writers, passed away last night after a long fight with cancer. He was 67. Dave covered the Caps since the inception of the Times in the early 1980s and knew virtually everyone and everything associated with Capitals hockey. His wife Pat put it so well: “In true Fay style he battled till the end. This time even that look could not stop this disease. He fought a good fight, but now he is at rest.”

We all knew “that look.” Piercing eyes, stern visage, the rest of his body eerily still. Dave prided himself on his crustiness, and former Caps media relations manager Jesse Price long ago dubbed him “Crusty.” But behind that cantankerous exterior, Dave had a heart of gold. He’d do anything for you, he just didn’t always like everyone else to know about it. It wasn’t good for his image.

He loved to joke around and have fun, and I can’t tell you how many hours and days over the years he entertained us with stories and good humor from his years on the beat. So much of “the beat life” involves standing around and waiting, and there was no better standing around and waiting companion than Dave. He could take a joke, too. Dave was very protective of his space in the press box and Julie Anastos once put what looked like a melted ice cream cone (it was a gag thing from a gift shop) on his legal pad when he went to refill his coffee cup. I’ll never forget the look he had when he stopped dead in his tracks upon seeing it, or the howls of laughter that followed.

The players loved him. They loved giving him a hard time and they didn’t always agree with what he wrote, but they loved him. They also respected him, largely because he would show up in the locker room day in and day out regardless of what he had written for that morning’s paper. He was never aloof with them, and was always there with an ear to hear their comments and concerns.

Glen Hanlon would hold up postgame press conferences until Dave had settled into his customary spot to the coach’s immediate left. Every coach who came through Washington in the last 25 years harbored a great respect for Dave. Whenever the Caps played a Bryan Murray-coached or managed team in recent years, the two could be seen kibbitzing together after games even though Dave usually had a deadline and Murray a bus to catch.

To other beat writers and radio and TV guys around the league, Dave was a great source of information, a spinner of yarns and a fountain of assistance. Whether you needed to know why someone was in the coach’s doghouse, a funny thing that happened at practice last week, or the best way to get out of the rink and get a cab back to the hotel after the game, Dave was your guy. And he would tell you all those things without breaking the confidence of any of his sources. Like most good beat writers, he always knew more than he told and he always knew exactly where to draw that line. Over the years team officials developed a great deal of confidence in Dave, and many of the things he learned and conversations he was privy to are still with him.

If Washington was playing a road game in Pittsburgh, Philly, New York, New Jersey, Long Island and often Carolina, Dave was driving to the game. When he was healthy, he rarely missed a practice and he put thousands and thousands of miles on his little truck and his VW Bug driving to games and practices over the years.

Dave was a great writer with a very quick wit; often a cynic’s wit. Sometimes he inserted the knife so skillfully and deftly in print, that a player wouldn’t even realize he was being carved. Earlier this year it was announced that Dave would receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, given annually “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey.”

He was the last of a dying breed around here, a guy who embraced his beat in workmanlike fashion and who always had his finger on the pulse of what was going on. During the Capitals’ “glory years” (relatively speaking, obviously) in the 1980s, local fans could read the writings of Dave and the late, great Robert Fachet day in and day out. These days, the Caps beat is a springboard to bigger and better things and no one holds down — or wants to hold down — the gig for more than a couple of years.

Throughout the second half of last season while he was home battling his illness, peers and other hockey types at every stop on the road wanted to know how he was doing and wanted to pass along well wishes. When I visited Russia in May for the World Championships, hockey people were asking me about Dave.

Like John Ferguson, who also lost his own battle with cancer just days ago, Dave was one tough hombre. He fought cancer for the better part of the last 15 years and had the upper hand for most of that time. Four days before he died, Dave bravely came out to Kettler Capitals Iceplex for one of the team’s developmental camp scrimmages. He didn’t quite have the strength to make it all the way inside. I think he may have made the effort because a few of us with the Caps had been threatening to come visit him.

For most of my early years covering the Capitals I did not travel with the team. I would occasionally miss a practice at Piney Orchard, too. Many, many times Dave would call me after the morning skate or after practice at Piney and fill me in on what I had missed. Hardly anyone ever calls me at home; most of the calls are for my wife and kids. But when the phone rang shortly before 7 p.m. whenever the Caps were on the road, I knew it was Dave. He’d be calling after pre-game warm-ups to give me any lineup changes and healthy scratches and nuggets from the coach’s pre-game press spiel. He’d go on for a while before pausing. Then he’d say, “What can I tell you?” This would repeat itself a few times in the course of a short conversation, and you might get three or four “what can I tell yous.”

I was always struck by the irony of that rhetorical question. The stuff Dave could tell me I probably couldn’t hope to live long enough to hear.

Right now, it’s really hard dealing with the idea of not seeing Dave in the press box on opening night with his coffee and his legal pad. He was my good friend and I’m already missing him so much. Our deepest sympathies go out to Pat and their children and grandchildren, and his host of friends across North America and around the world.

Memorial contributions may be made in Dave’s name to: Hockey Fights Cancer, PO Box 5037, New York, NY 10185-5037 or Hockey’s All-Star Kids Foundation, National Hockey League, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Canadian friends may send Memorial contributions to: Hockey Fights Cancer, P.O. Box 1282, Station B, Montreal, Quebec H3B 3K9.

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44 Comments on “Dave Fay, 1940-2007”

  1. Andy Says:

    Beautifully written Mike. Dave will truely be missed. While most of us only knew him from his articles in the Times, I appreciate the stories you are able to share about him. This is a huge loss for Washington DC hockey, the Caps, and the fans.

    Be at peace Dave.

  2. dee4077 Says:

    Beautiful job, Mike. That ever-present coffee mug and legal pad should be permanently affixed to Dave’s spot in the press box. He was a good friend – like you said, no matter how much he wanted to give the outside appearance of being a “crusty” old fart. He will be missed.

  3. Jill Says:

    Kudos on an excellent tribute, Mike. I know Dave will be looking down on the Caps from that big hockey arena in the sky.

    RIP Dave. My condolensces to the Fay family as well as the Caps and Times families.

  4. Danny Says:

    Nice tribute. A definite loss for all of us.

  5. Mike L Says:

    So sad, he was a great writer and he truly was able to offer glimpses into the Caps that most could not…

    Condolences to the Fay family and all of his many friends in and out of hockey.

  6. Frank M Says:

    Mike,
    Excellently written. As a long-time hocke fan, the man and his articles will be greatly missed. Thank you for sharing your stories of him. Opening night, let’s toast to Dave, for all he passionately did for the Caps and hockey in the DC area!

  7. Matt Pettinger Says:

    Great article Mike. I met Dave the day I was drafted by the Caps in 2000 in Calgary. He was great writer and a great guy to be around. Sad to hear of his passing. Like you said he was a very honost writer and never hid from what he said or thought. My wife and I send our condolences to the Fay family.

  8. KP Says:

    Good read Mike. It’s a sad day as a Caps fan knowing I’ll never be able to read a new story from the man. RIP, sir. My condolences to the family.

  9. Johnny Drum Says:

    No doubt, if theres hockey “up-stairs”, the Good Lord better have a decent powerplay/drafting prowess, or Fay will tear into him..lol
    As a fan from afar,i rely on the net for my Caps gossip, I often enjoyed,(and sometimes got annoyed,!) by Daves articles.

    Thank you Mr Fay..

  10. Michelle Says:

    Mike that was great. He will truly be missed. Finding people who are not afraid to put the facts out front and center, either good or bad, are difficult to find. HHOF Honor could not have come at a better time. Condolences to the Fay family and all of hockey.

  11. Jim Perrus Says:

    Great tribute Mike. I’ve been working the games for 18 years and the press box will not be the same this season. I will miss not seeing Dave with that huge coffee mug. Even though he seemed “crusty” on the outside, he always made time to say Hi and give me a good laugh. My condolences to the Fay family.

  12. Nate Says:

    What better tribute to a great journalist than a great piece of writing like this, Mike. Well done. All of us who got to know Dave were truly blessed.

  13. Dick Says:

    Great writeup and as others have said Dave Fay will be greatly missed. Ironic that my subscription to the WT expired yesterday and now I have no reason to renew because the only reason I got it was for Dave Fay’s coverage of the Caps. Also what a classy individual for Matt Pettinger to share his comments on Dave Fay. It shows that the players really did like Dave Fay.

  14. JW Says:

    Mike: Thanks for honoring him this way. You remembered Dave with a passion he would have respected. As a long-time reader of his work in the WT, I will miss him dearly. I will also miss his contributions to the Hockey News. He represented D.C. with distinction and was our ambassador to the rest of the hockey world. He was a clever, insightful journalist who moved hockey to the next level in this town. I hope the Caps do something to honor his memory this fall.

  15. Ted Leonsis Says:

    Great article,Mike– I know you and Dave had a special relationship–you are both honest about the game and show it true respect and love and care.Dave was one of a kind– he was a great guy–a great writer and someone who loved our community and team very much.

    We will honor his memory at games and on our websites next season.Let’s also keep his seat open at all times in the press box.Ted

  16. John and Tammi Byl Says:

    My wife and I knew Dave as our wives worked together a while back,They were one of the first couples I met moving here from Canada.I was excited in the line of work he was in when I first met him, playing hockey myself.So we hit off right away.He got me in to some of the games when he was writing.I would look at his articles and was always interested in them and to wonder what he would write the next time.He was a clever individual and was always fun to talk with about hockey, not just about Washington, but about other teams and cities aswell.There were a few times he asked me if i was going to Toronto to see the leafs play Washington, I would say I can’t, im working, then of course I was jealous, being from Toronto area myself, he would kind of say oh ok joking around.. He was a good man, and will be dearly missed by us and the Hockey Community, I hope that the Capitals Honour him in what he did as a writer and friend to many, I would really like to see him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Ted, Keep is seat open in the box!! you will be missed Dave.

  17. Scott Linn Says:

    Vogs,

    Excellent piece. I loved that man, as well. Mr. Fay was one of a kind, truly. He could absolutely dish it out and loved doing so. My condolences to those who are touched by his passing, and knowing Dave…it is many.

    Scott

  18. Carter Myers Says:

    A beautiful writing, Mike. I had a very special relationship with Dave, and you are right…it will not be quite the same coming to the rink without him. I didn’t always agree with him, but I always respected his opinion and I once found out the hard way how seriously he took his responsibilites as beat reporter. Everyone would do well to emulate him while doing their own jobs and the world would be a better place. I always was pleased that he read and thanked me (every time!) for my notes, and I will always take a special pride in the name he coined for me, a Ford dealer….Edsel! What a sense of humor he had. Well done, Dave, well done! Pat and the family will remain in my thoughts. Carter


  19. […] Dave Fay, 1940-2007 Longtime Washington Times beat writer Dave Fay, the dean of Washington hockey writers, passed away last night after a […] […]

  20. Chris Poisal Says:

    Vogs, very well written as usual. I first met Dave 3 year ago when I began writing for a local online sports “paper.” Dave welcomed me to the press box with open arms and would often give me writing tips.As you know I’m working with the Bears and I remember during our run for the Cup last season Dave made an appearance in Hershey.What a treat for those in Hershey who had never met him. His vast knowledge of the Caps and of hockey in general will be missed.Now Dave can have all the Hershey chocolate he can handle. Rest In Peace Dave. Mr. Leonsis I believe leaving his seat in the press box vacant a wonderful tribute. Another suggestion, if I may add would be to name the press box in his honor.

  21. Dmitry Says:

    Mike, what a great tribute. I will always remember Dave the way he was the first time I met him: with a smile and a good joke. He was the first to embrace the new member of the Caps’ press box. He would always have time to chat and to share his thoughts when asked. I will never forget his question to Martin Brodeur about Alex Ovechkin: “So have you seen his eyes today?” He was critical of the team at times, but he was fair. He was the “checks and balances”. A great fan of hockey. A great fan of the Caps. A true legend. May he rest in peace and God bless his soul.

    Dave, you will be missed. And thank you.

  22. Jill Sorenson Says:

    Mike,
    Beautifully written. You captured the essence of Dave through your incredible words. As a young 23 year old he was kind enough to help this young DC rookie reporter. I found out quickly that rough exterior was only skin deep. I remember he told me after his truck accident a few years ago “I never knew how many people cared about me”… I’m glad he found out because he will truly be missed. I feel incredibly blessed to have known him.

    Jill

  23. GoBucks9 Says:

    As always – a wonderful piece of writing. Rest in peace Mr. Fay.


  24. Many believe that the measure of a man is the way he’s remembered by his peers. You’ve helped us realize that what we lost this week on the beat was rather immeasureable.

  25. Cathy Klase Says:

    Mike-What a beautiful tribute to Dave. I will always have fond memories of Dave arriving in the upstairs press box before a game. We kept his special coffee cup under the sink. As the coffee was being made, the cup came out and was put in its special place next to the coffee maker. He always pretended he was mad if the coffee wasn’t ready-which it normally wasn’t. When the coffee was done brewing, and if Dave had settled into his chair on press row, I had the honor of bringing him his cup. He was the only writer I did this for. Black. a couple of pieces of ice to cool it and a napkin. If I could round up a few favorite cookies, I brought those too. Such a small thing but I loved doing this for him. He never expected it but always seemed grateful. There was something special about him. No pretenses. His cup will always have its special place next to the coffee pot. I will really miss him.

  26. terry nau Says:

    i met dave in state college, pa. back in 1972 and learned hockey at his house while watching the flyers beat dave’s beloved bruins in the stanley cup finals. hockey was the only sport dave truly loved. i am so glad i met him while bobby orr was still performing his magic because dave explained orr’s greatness to me in that terse, succinct style he brought to talking and writing.

    who could sum up bobby orr better than dave fay? “just watch No. 4,” he told me over a beer. “never take your eyes off No. 4 when he’s on the ice. that’s rule No. 1.”

    dave gave me two of my four jobs in newspapers, one in state college and other in pawtucket, ri. he was a huge influence on my life. i read all these tributes from his readers and colleagues and appreciate more than ever what a tremendous impact dave had on the lives of so many people all over the hockey world, and beyond.

    dave, if you’re reading this, rest in peace, my friend. we will drink a beer again some day to the greatness of bobby orr.

  27. Dave Boyer Says:

    I had a number of opportunities to meet Dave Fay and I can only echo the sentiments and thoughts that have been presented by previous posters. Beneath the gruff exterior was a man who was a passionate contibutor to the sport we love. For 13 seasons, I served as the primary Commercial Coordinator for Caps home games, before switching to other duties on the Caps off-ice officiating crew last season. One night, there was a particularly long game at MCI/Verizon Center and after the game in the press room, Dave asked me if the NHL was deliberately making the Commercial Breaks longer, without telling anyone. He was close to his article-filing deadline and was a little bit rushed. When I answered his question (no, it was just felt like a long game) honestly and sincerely, the ice melted a little bit and he admitted that he was just pulling my chain a little. I will miss Dave Fay’s hard-charging writing style. His writing gave a story a new dimension, because he worked hard to find and share information that you might not get elsewhere. His insights were drawn from his vast knowledge and appreciation of the game. I feel badly that we have lost that style with Dave’s passing and that the next generation of Caps fans will never know what they missed. Rest in Peace.

  28. doug Says:

    Mike,
    I’m really hoping Mr. Fay’s family reads your article. This should keep them smiling. Thank you for taking the time to write the piece.
    v/r
    Doug


  29. Mike…a truly amazing blog as your comments about Dave bring back great memories from seeing him at different times over the past 30 years. He always brought a smile to my face with his sarcasm, sense of humor and dry wit…a tidy little package all wrapped up in one. An amazingly competent, hard worker who along with Bob Fachet brought the early Cap fans of Landover closer to the team. On his induction into the Hall recently, I dropped him a loving but sarcastic note ‘retaliating’ for his years of tweaking me and my hockey photography. His response lacked his usual humor, and simply said that I had ‘made his day’. Should have known something was up. Wish I had kept that e-mail.

  30. dumpnchase Says:

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave comments and to share their memories of Dave. We all had our own personal relationships with him, and I think it’s terrific for his family to know just how much he was loved and revered and how much we’re all going to miss him. Thanks again, I really appreciate it.

  31. Amy Says:

    Dave Fay used to scare the hell out of me. Until I realized that he wasn’t trying to terrorize me, he was trying to help me be the best person I could be and do the best job I could do. He was a wonderful man who I’ve thought about many, many times over the years. My thoughts are with his family.


  32. Mike,
    I was looking for your e-mail address. Myself and a couple of the other messageboard members organize a couple of charity events for cancer research. Namely an annual golf tournament, and monthly hockey pickup game.

    The participants are almost all washington capitals message board members.

    This month, instead of donating our earnings to the American Cancer Society via Woodbridge Relay for Life, we would like to make a contribution to Hockey Fights Cancer in Daves name.

    Would you perhaps give our little event a plug in the next caps report, or e-mail me for more details.

    If we could get a few more people out to watch, and make a donation in Mr. Fays name, it would be nice.

    Thanks
    Gavin

  33. Margaret Says:

    Thanks Mike for the wonderful words. I always enjoyed talking with Dave at Piney. I will always remember him for the kind human being that he was to everyone. He will truly be missed but the memories will live on in my heart and thoughts.

  34. Lou Friedman Says:

    I have covered the New York Islanders for the last 17 active seasons for the Associated Press, so I knew Dave for my entire time there. He always sought me out before an Islander/Capital game to say hello, and shoot the breeze for 5-10 minutes. We would pick each other’s brains, but my hockey brain was rendered puny compared to his. He is a colleague I will never forget. RIP, and my deepest sympathies to his family.

  35. Jesse Says:

    Vogs, thanks for sharing such an eloquent piece about Dave. I know you guys were quite close and my deepest condolences go out to you and the Fay family.

    Some of my fondest memories of Dave were spent during practices. Sitting in the upper bleachers of a cold practice rink, we would just chat about the game. It was especially fun to see Dave’s face light up whenever he started regaling tales from the 1980’s teams. It was a treasure to experience that link between the old Mount Vernon teams and the current day version. I’ll never forget that trademark Dave Fay smirk. It was truly one of a kind.

    You’ll certainly be missed Dave. Your passion for the game always rang true…and as hockey fans we all sincerely appreciate that.

    Jesse

  36. sean hall Says:

    I remember Dave Fay from the early 80s when the Caps were starting to win and several of us in the Caps’ press corps were developing our Bryan Murray imitations.
    What a nice guy and the consummate reporter. I remember Fachet in the same way, but that’s for a different blog. Dave had thick, curly hair back then and yes, was quite imposing in the press box. But what a great guy. Dave probably forgot more about hockey–and writing for hockey–than most of us will ever know. I’m truly sad for two things: One, that Dave is gone. Two, that Dave won’t be around in person to be inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Such a sad time, but, at the same time–a fond one for the memories Dave Fay left behind.

    Sean Hall

  37. Matt Bradley Says:

    Well done on the tribute Mike, you really did a nice job of capturing what Dave was all about. I always enjoyed the chats Dave and I shared over the past couple of years. He was honest and always made me laugh–even if it was at my own expense! I send my condolances to the Fay family in this difficult time.

  38. Frank Provenzano Says:

    In my first season working for the Caps, Dave Fay introduced himself to me by saying “Hello- I’m not Tony Gallagher” (Tony was a notoriously negative writer who covered the Vancouver Canucks, from where I had just come). During the next 7 years, he never, ever betrayed that trust. He knew what he could ask and, more importantly, he knew how. Though his questions to me were usually technical/background in nature, they were almost always prefaced by a comment about my questionable ethnicity, ever-receding hairline, or general lack of intelligence. In my first trip back to Washington last season, I walked into the pressbox at Verizon Center and went right to the front row/left side to see Dave. He interrupted himselft long enough to give me “the Look”, which was his way of saying “Welcome Back”.

    Rest well, Dave.

  39. Conor Beamer Says:

    As has been stated by many others, well done Mike. One of my fondest memories of Dave was his playful relationship he had with Ovie. It was always a laugh to see the two of them interact. He was also great to me as a new game night staffer. He’d slip in his jokes and stern warnings (meant to be jokes) but was always very helpful. He let me know very quickly that I was standing in his spot for coach’s press conference. We were all very lucky to have experienced the Man, the Legend, Dave Fay. We will surely miss him.

  40. Gary Graves Says:

    Mike, count me among those agreeing with your excellent tribute to Dave. We worked together at the Times from 1988-91 and crossed paths at Caps practices and games or the occasional NASCAR race when he was following Joe Gibbs Racing. At the Times we kidded Dave about his reliance on his tape recorder, as well as that coffee cup that looked like it had never been washed. Somehow he believed that made Verizon Center coffee taste better. On a professional level there was no better source of history, information or help than Fay, who’d grumble about it on the surface but never said no. Hockey has lost a true great, but the stories he told and wrote, the questions he answered and his guidance of green colleagues like myself will be his legacy. It won’t feel the same without that stare and those wisecracks. God bless you, Dave Fay.

  41. Absaraka Says:

    What can I say that hasn’t been said dozens of times already? My thoughts and prayers go out to Pat and the rest of the Fay family. I lost my father to cancer a few months ago, so this one hits a little bit closer to home for me personally.

    Excellent piece, Mike, as ever.

    This much of my own I will add: for me, a Caps game wasn’t over when the final horn sounded. It wasn’t over when I went home to bed after the game. No, for me, a Caps game was never over until I read Dave Fay’s article about it in the Times.

    I’ve only been in Washington for a couple of years, and I haven’t had the privilege of reading Dave’s work for the last quarter-century. Just based on what I’ve read since I got here, though, I can say that Dave truly was one of the greats. Hockey in Washington has lost an institution. To merely say that Dave will be missed by Washington hockey fans would be not unlike saying that the Washington Monument is just another DC landmark.

    There will still be Caps hockey in Washington, but those of us who were blessed to have read Dave’s work, or to have known him personally, will never read about Caps hockey the same way again. There’s a seat in the pressbox now that may be forever too big to fill.

    Requiem aeternam, dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

    So long, Dave. May you forever be remembered and loved by the sport you yourself loved so very much.


  42. […] entry about him- I highly recommend reading it. A couple of the comments on Mike’s post at Dump and Chase were of special […]

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