Mulvoy as photographed in 1994 for this magazine’s cover.

Photo: Gary Wayne Gilbert

Mark Mulvoy '64 Enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame

The legendary Sports Illustrated editor was recognized for journalism that brought hockey into the mainstream.

Last November, Mark Mulvoy ’64 capped a storied career in sports journalism with his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, where he was presented with the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award. He was chosen for both honors by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, which selects media honorees for the hall of fame. Mulvoy, the renowned managing editor of Sports Illustrated from 1984 to 1996 (except for a brief stretch in the early ’90s when he served as publisher), helped the magazine become perhaps the most prestigious publication in sports journalism, breaking major stories and pursuing serious investigations. He was previously a pioneering hockey reporter for the magazine, covering the game with a passion that helped to raise the profile of the sport. The award recognizes hockey writers who have brought honor to the game and to the sport itself.

“Mark evangelized hockey to the masses,” said Professional Hockey Writers Association President Frank Seravalli. “Even when interest in the sport was waning, he kept hockey at the forefront. He made it prominent. And he pulled no punches.”

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of my career in journalism,” Mulvoy said. “This feels like a culmination.”

Mulvoy’s love of hockey started as a boy. In the ’50s, he and his brother would play stick hockey with a plastic cup on the street outside their Dorchester apartment. As a teenager, he’d sneak into the Boston Garden to catch Bruins games from the nosebleed seats. His journalism career started soon after enrolling at Boston College, when he covered BC sports part-time for the Boston Globe. He joined the paper full-time after graduating in 1963. Two years later, he headed to New York for a job at SI. He’d been hired to write about baseball, but his editors quickly assigned him to shadow the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus for a column Mulvoy would ghostwrite. “There I was, a kid who grew up caddying at the Wollaston Golf Club,” Mulvoy recalled with amazement, “and suddenly, I’m in Florida playing golf with Jack Nicklaus.”

Mulvoy covered every sport he could for the magazine, but hockey was his greatest passion, and the young writer found himself in the right place at the right time to tell the stories of a sport in ascent. He covered the National Hockey League as it expanded in 1967 from six to twelve teams, and three years later, he convinced the government of the Soviet Union to allow him into the country to become the first American writer ever to cover Soviet hockey. What he found was a program on the rise. “Nobody realized the Russians were as good as they were,” he said. “They were better than we could have imagined.” Across three trips to the country between 1972 and 1975, he sent home dispatches about the Soviets’ revolutionary style of play, full of fast and intricate passing maneuvers, which contrasted with the more plodding North American style.

In 1981, Mulvoy was named one of three Sports Illustrated assistant managing editors. He was just forty-three when, three years later, he was named as the magazine’s youngest-ever managing editor, leading a publication with more than two hundred editorial staffers and three and a half million subscribers. “I wanted us to be the conscience of sports,” Mulvoy said of his ambitions upon taking editorial control of the magazine. He assigned major investigative stories, including one that revealed rampant cocaine abuse in the NFL and another that broke the Pete Rose gambling scandal, which led to a lifetime baseball ban for one of the game’s all-time greatest players.

Under Mulvoy’s editorship, SI won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, the most prestigious prize in the industry, two years in a row. Mulvoy also made the magazine a success at the newsstand, thanks in part to the swimsuit issue, in which models were photographed in bikinis. Mulvoy expanded the concept from a small yearly feature into an annual special issue that became a cultural phenomenon and sold five million copies a year.    

Through all his other triumphs, however, Mulvoy never stopped championing the sport he loved, running abundant hockey coverage up to his retirement in 1996. Some of it, to be sure, was tough love. “Mark was an angel on the shoulder of the National Hockey League—but he was also a thorn in its side,” said Michael Farber, an SI hockey writer hired by Mulvoy. “He shepherded tough, tough stories. He was doing what journalists were supposed to.”