Rest in peace, Harold ZeiglerPosted on September 05, 2012
Hershey and Washington have a common passion for hockey, but geographically they could not be more different. For instance, you might need two hours some mornings to get to work via car in D.C. In Hershey, a traffic jam consists of more than two cars at a red light. In a small town, you get to know people a little bit faster than you might in a big city. It is, to this day, one of the most redeeming features of a place like Chocolatetown, U.S.A. In the fall of 2002, I had just been hired to be the new voice of the Hershey Bears, replacing a very popular voice in Dave Mishkin. Mish had been hired by the Tampa Bay Lightning late that summer, and I was scrambling to set up camp in Hershey as the 2002-03 season began. I literally pulled into town on a Saturday afternoon, shoved moving boxes into a new apartment, and took a break from hauling furniture to watch Hershey's exhibition game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Hersheypark Arena that night. The game wasn't on the air, so I watched from the tiny press box with the team's beat writers. I didn't know a single person in town, and they didn't know me either. Anyone starting a new career far away can likely relate to a moment like that. I'd left friends and family behind to begin a new chapter in my life, and sat in a sea of strangers. But as I took my seat to watch the game, a warm, friendly greeting came from my left. "You must be the new radio guy," he said. I confirmed that I was, and he replied "Good to meet you, I'm Harold Zeigler." Ziggy was literally the first person I met when I moved to Hershey, and the first person I got to know. He talked of skiing, a passion of his. He talked about the team. He talked a lot about a lot of things that night, so many that I can't remember them all. I spent half the game talking to him, while trying to also pay attention to the players on the ice. Much like many of the residents of central Pennsylvania, his was a personality that was easy to like. It was, for me, the very beginning of my time in a place that will always be very special to me. I went home to chaos in my apartment that night, grateful that the process of making friends and settling in had begun. This morning, nearly 10 years to the day after that conversation, I learned that Ziggy passed away Tuesday night, after a long fight with ALS. Of the four beat writers that covered the Bears dating back to my first season in Hershey, Harold is the second we have lost way too soon, following Dan Sernoffsky of the Lebanon Daily News in passing back in 2011. The press box at Giant Center will always be a special place to me. Members of the media, like Tim Leone of the Patriot-News, Dave Sottile from the York Daily Record, and Gregg Mace from ABC-27 to this day are great friends of mine. It is tough for me to fathom that Dan and Harold are no longer with us among the Hershey media fraternity. Kevin Freeman, another Hershey beat writer from Lancaster, perhaps knew Ziggy as well as anyone. His story about Harold appeared in the Lancaster paper today, and it tells of a story about former Washington assistant coach Jay Leach. Leach's rant after a Hershey loss in 1995 is the stuff of legend among Hershey media. The tape of the rant still exists, as most of the writers who covered it saved it for posterity. Early in my Hershey career, I remember Dave Sottile bringing the tape into the Giant Center press box, specifically so I could hear it in all its glory. What I also remember is Ziggy, and the glee he displayed when he learned that Dave was going to play it for me. He bounded over to Dave's press box location, with a huge smile on his face, with the anticipation of hearing again one of the all-time classic moments in Bears media history. We all shared many a laugh over the years in press row, over countless other amusements. Ziggy, like me, enjoyed those times as much as I did. In a community as small as Hershey, these moments of passing always seem to hit a little harder. I'm grateful for Harold Zeigler's friendship, his laughter, and for the moments on and off the ice we witnessed over the years. Being a beat writer for the Hershey Bears is one of the most noble titles a man can have from where I sit. Ziggy upheld that honor with grace and class, and he will be missed by many. I hope you have a moment to read Kevin's story about him. His is a loss to his immediate family, but the Hershey media family as well.