It was recently brought to light that Ron Hextall made some very bad decisions as the Flyers General Manager. Do these bad choices truly tarnish his legacy as a goaltender? I understand cancel culture, and there are times when it is appropriate (yes,I am looking at you, Evander Kane…you and Burt’s eyebrows) but I have to defend Hexy and his legacy as a player.
Ron Hextall was a seriously BAD ASS goal tender. He was the first net minder to intentionally score a goal on the opposing net. While Billy Smith was credited with an Islanders goal, Hexy actually shot the puck on the opposition net, and the puck went in. History was made. It was history that Flyers fans had been waiting for, hoping for. Any time the Flyers had a decent lead and the opposing goalie was pulled, Hexy was taking his shot. On December 8, 1987, Hexy made that shot, and walked into the history books. The Spectrum crowd roared, while those of us at home stood in front of our televisions cheering like loons.
Hexy would go on to score a goal in the 1989 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a shorthanded goal at that. Yes kids, there was a time, not so long ago, when the Flyers made the playoffs on a regular basis, and Ron Hextall is a part of that history.
Hextall was seen as a gift from the hockey Gods after the tragic death of Pelle Lindbergh. Pelle’s legacy was overshadowed by his death; a young, supremely talented goalie made the mistake of driving drunk and paid the most costly price possible. Does that change his legacy as a goaltender? That he was the first goalie to strap a water bottle to his cage? Take a look around, his legacy lives on, and so MUST Ron Hextall’s.
Watch any of the games that will hopefully be played this evening. Watch as goalies all over the NHL pass the puck with accuracy to their defense, starting the play up the ice. Goalies getting assists is routine now; they are as a whole now expected to help their team out of the zone. If they make an error in puck handling, they are called out for their lack of skill.
Do me a favor, before you chose to cancel Ron Hextall’s legacy as a player. Watch a game from the seventies or early eighties, a pre-Hextall era game. There was not a goalie that even attempted the puck handling that Hexy excelled at. Then watch Carter Hart handle the puck, and listen to yourself as you criticize him for not having perfect puck handling skills. Then kindly thank Ron Hextall for even imagining that a goalie should do more than stop the puck.
Hextall had other skills that were not normally associated with a goaltender. He didn’t need anyone to clear his porch. Kent Nillson will certainly testify on behalf of that fact; Hextall broke his ankle with a vicious slash in the 1987 SCF. Hextall was penalized and suspended for the slash that occurred after non-call after non-call against the Oilers. Oh, there was also a time, not that long ago, when the Oilers were good. Really good as a matter of fact.
Hexy could also defend himself and had no issues in defending his team mates if no one else would step up. After Chelios knocked teammate Brian Propp unconscious in Game 1, Hextall attacked him when the series was over. Hextall, the goal tender, defended his team mate. If you, as a younger fan want to see that video, you will need to sign in to YouTube to prove you are of age as YouTube has placed an age restriction on the viewing of that video.
That is the hockey player that Ron Hextall was; the ultimate teammate, and a goaltender that changed the way goalies play the game. So yes, he sucked as a GM; however; that DOES NOT change the legacy of Ron Hextall as a player.
By: Phyllis Ceci (@flyersfan1129)
photo credit: NHL.com