The Flyers lost, badly, to the Boston Bruins on Friday night. In what can only be called an embarrassment, the Flyers lost 6-1, and Carter Hart gave up six goals. Six. SIX. It was horrifying to watch, and judging by Carter Hart’s reaction, it was just as horrifying to play.
After the final horn brought an end to the most lopsided loss he has suffered, Hart smashed his stick over his net, repeatedly, until it finally broke. His team mates watched, most likely as dumbstruck as I was while watching the normally unflappable young net minder snap. He apologized after the game, said he was frustrated and that he could be better. He seemed ashamed of his emotions, his anger. I for one was happy to see the emotion, a little fight. Fight and emotion have both been in short supply amongst this 2020 Flyers squad. I have been missing Wayne Simmonds, feeling that Simmer would bring that fight. He has certainly been bringing it to the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring his first goal tonight against the Calgary Flames.
Watching Hart, I couldn’t help but think back to another goaltender, one with a touch more emotion than Hart normally demonstrates; namely one Ron Hextall. Hexy had emotion enough for an entire team, perhaps an entire league. Hextall had big shoes to fill; replacing Pelle Lindbergh just one season after Lindbergh’s tragic death.
Hextall was Lindbergh’s polar opposite; much as Hart is calm and cool, Pelle was always happy, always had a smile and was never bogged down by a loss. Hextall took each loss, each goal, personally. He wielded his goal stick as a weapon, as would certainly be attested to by Kent Nilsson, who took the business end of Hextall’s stick in the 1986-87 Stanley Cup Finals.
Hextall was suspended for the first eight games of the following season, with the following statement from the NHL’s Brian O’Neill: “There is no justification for any player to swing his stick in retaliation and this is especially the case for a goaltender whose stick, because of it’s weight, can cause serious injury”. Hextall never apologized for the slash, only that he had slashed the wrong player. Hextall had been slashed by Glenn Anderson; since the refs made no call, he took matters into his own gloves.
Hextall could defend himself with more than his stick; he was not afraid to drop his gloves. In what was labeled as an ‘attack’, Chris Chelios found out first hand that Hextall would not only defend himself, but would stand up for his team mates as well. Chelios had delivered an elbow to Brian Propp, who wound up with a concussion. Hextall was suspended twelve games for this little tete-a-tete. To this day, Hextall regrets neither the fight nor the suspension. He felt Propp’s injury needed to be dealt with; he would not see his team mate injured without justice.
Hextall did use his stick and hands for more than the defense of his crease and his team mates; he was the first goal tender to intentionally shoot on the opposition net and score a goal. On December 8, 1987 Hextall shot the puck down the ice, into Boston’s empty net, and secured his place in the NHL history books. He would score a playoff goal, and a shortie at that, against the Washington Capitals on April 11, 1989. Hextall could handle the puck with a finesse that was envied the League over; he was often called a third d-man or fourth forward by his team mates. Young Master Carter Hart would do well to study some tape of Hextall’s puck handling, which is considered his one weakness.
The entire team would do well to watch some Hextall videos; take some pride, boys. You are FLYERS, and you have a long, proud history as the Broad Street Bullies. Sometimes looking back, and finding that anger is the best thing you can do. Stop apologizing, Carter; show that emotion, show that anger. Channel your inner Ron Hextall, make it your friend.
Behold the beauty that was the 1989 version of the Broad Street Bullies.