By Kevin Freeman
Perhaps nothing tells you that you’re getting older than the passing of friends.
I was confronted with that reality again Monday night when I heard that Harold Zeigler had passed away.
Zig — even his wife Sue called him Zig or Ziggy — was a sportswriter here at Lancaster Newspapers. Most of his stories were written for the Lancaster New Era when that paper had a staff unto itself.
But he also wrote for the Sunday News, for which he covered the Hershey Bears on Saturday nights.
For three-plus decades, you could find Zig in the press box at both the Hersheypark Arena and the Giant Center. I think he really enjoyed covering hockey, particularly the Bears. He seemed to be always having fun. He enjoyed sitting in the press room prior to games and discussing the latest hockey news with Hershey’s off-ice officials.
Back in the mid-’90s, I remember Zig and I being among a small group of reporters who walked down the narrow steps at the Arena at the conclusion of a game and waited outside the locker room for Hershey coach Jay Leach. The Bears had lost and were having a woeful December.
Leach approached and barely heard the first question before he went into a profanity-laced diatribe that probably had nothing to do with the question asked. He just wanted to vent. I saved the tape for a long time because the other writers and I were convinced that Leach set the record for F-bombs in a three-minute span.
Leach was running out of steam when he said,”I’ll have these @$%&# in to practice on Christmas if I have to!” Then he said, “Anything else?” And Zig said, “Uh, that should do it.” And we all raced up those steps.
The other thing was, Zig was never afraid to ask the tough question or one that might bring up something negative. He knew the negative things were also part of the story sometimes.
I was always struck by Zig’s fantastic memory. Besides hockey, he covered a lot of golf, particularly local golf. When we both covered local tournaments, he for the New Era and me for the Intell, we’d be riding in a cart following the leaders and he would say, “I remember when Terry Hertzog hit a 2-iron on the fourth hole in the ’86 Lanco Open … .” I thought, wow, if that’s what it takes to be a sportswriter, I’m never going to make it.
He’d do the same when covering high school football or basketball. He remembered the smallest of details from games long forgotten by most.
A note, too, about the landscape at Lancaster Newspapers. Since Zig worked for the New Era and I for the Intell, we were competing against one another, at least that’s the way the papers were set up. That competition could be testy with some reporters and editors but I never really got that feeling with Zig. Sure, he wanted to beat the Intell to get stories first but that attitude never carried over when we covered the same event. He was always friendly.
After Zig retired from the New Era, he still covered the Bears for the Sunday News, so I got to see him often during the hockey season. He spent the last year or so in Myrtle Beach, so I hadn’t seen him for a while.
But I’ll miss how happy he was around the press box and press room in Hershey. He just seemed the enjoy that environment so much. He joins two other Hershey Bears beat guys who passed away too soon, Steve Summers from the Harrisburg Patriot and Dan Sernoffsky from the Lebanon Daily News.
Wherever Zig is now, I hoping he’s playing golf from the tips, slaloming down a mountain or watching a hockey game.
“Don’t you want to be there, don’t you want to go?
Where the light is breaking and the cold clear winds blow
Don’t you want to be there in the golden glow
Don’t you want to be there, don’t you want to fly?
With your arms out, let a shout take you across the sky
Don’t you want to be there when the time’s gone by
– Jackson Browne