Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ted Leonsis met Dave Fay the day he bought the Washington Capitals in 1999.

Fay had been covering Leonsis’ new team for many years at The Washington Times, and the Internet mogul counted himself among Fay’s loyal readers.

“Dave is a national treasure. He’s been with the Caps and the NHL through thick and thin,” Leonsis said. “I told him I’d read his work for many, many years.”

Fay, who has been with The Times since its inception in 1982 and has covered the Caps for more than two decades, yesterday was named the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Award for hockey journalism, earning him a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bill Hay, chairman of the Hall of Fame, announced the award, which is given by the Professional Hockey Writers Association “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey.”

Fay will receive the award at a Nov. 12 luncheon in Toronto during the Hall of Fame’s induction weekend and will be honored permanently with a plaque inside the building’s Great Hall.

“I was stunned. I didn’t know whether or not to quite believe it,” Fay said. “It is a humbling experience. You look at the list of people who have won it, and it is a pretty good list of people. I am very, very pleased and very happy.”

The award, named in honor of the late Elmer Ferguson, a writer and editor for the Montreal Herald, is voted on by an 11-member panel composed of an NHL Players Association executive, former winners of the award and at-large voters. All winners have at least 20 years of experience in the business.

“It is not just about longevity. You don’t win the award because you’ve been around the long time,” said Kevin Allen, senior hockey writer for USA Today and president of the PHWA. “It is because you’ve been around a long time and you’ve done a lot of excellent work. I’ve said many times this is a hockey’s writer’s Stanley Cup. This is the pinnacle.”

Fay, 67, was born in Boston and educated in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. He has been a sports journalist since his discharge from U.S. Navy in 1961. Fay has been on the Caps beat since 1982 with the exception of three years covering the Washington Redskins. He is a life member of the PHWA and also belongs to the Professional Football Writers Association.

“The first time I met him I thought, ‘Who is this grumpy guy?’ Over time I realized he is a delightful and well-respected guy,” Allen said. “I love his sarcastic wit and humor. He is beloved among this group of writers that have been around for a long time. He is hard-nosed. He asks the tough questions. He’s been very active in our organization when any issues about access or anything else arise. He’s served our organization very well.”

Fay was nominated by Jason La Canfora, who covered the Caps for The Washington Post from 1999 to the lockout after the 2003-04 season.

“Growing up as a big hockey fan in Baltimore, I remember going out of my way to find copies of The Washington Times to read Dave’s stuff,” La Canfora said. “Even when I was in college at Syracuse — this was before the Internet — my mom would send me copies of the paper every week or every other week.”

Fay is the 49th recipient of the award, which was first given out in 1984. Most of the winners have come from the “Original Six” markets or other parts of the northeastern United States and Canada.

“That makes it even more meaningful to me because this American market [of the District] is being recognized as part of the hockey world,” Fay said. “For that reason alone, I am very happy. There are a lot of very good writers in other cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis who haven’t been mentioned yet, although I am sure they will be.”

Fay has overcome multiple bouts with cancer to continue his work. He was first diagnosed with oral cancer in 1995 and again in 2003. Fay missed the latter part of this season after learning he had cancer of the esophagus, but he has returned to the beat while undergoing treatment seven days a week.

“For a really cranky guy, you are always happy to see him,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “He is nice to work with because he really loves the game and is a good reporter. He respects the people involved with this game. It is hard to think of a more deserving person.”

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