Skip to main content

Top 100 Goalies: No. 45 — Ron Hextall

His quality netminding is often overshadowed by his penchant for fisticuffs and bodychecks.

If an unofficial NHL goaltending handbook ever existed, Ron Hextall burned it to a crisp the moment he donned a Philadelphia Flyers sweater. Nothing he accomplished in his career was ordinary.

Oddly, his greatest season was his first, in which he won the 1986-87 Vezina Trophy and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy in a losing effort. He helped the Flyers push the dynastic Edmonton Oilers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers averaged a mammoth 4.65 goals per game that year, but Hextall held them to three or fewer five times in the series.

Hextall was a special athlete, known for his superb puckhandling, which was ahead of its time. He came from a hockey bloodline with a Hall of Famer for a grandfather and a father and uncle in the NHL, too.

But let’s be honest. When we think of Ron Hextall we think of one thing: violence. He’s the scariest, angriest, most volatile personality ever to fill a mask. Hextall regularly dropped the gloves and gleefully left his net to deliver crushing bodychecks. He topped 100 penalty minutes in each of his first three seasons – and no other NHL goalie has ever surpassed even 70 in a single year. He’s easily the league’s all-time leader in PIMs for a goalie, 94 ahead of Billy Smith.

Opponents had a tough time establishing a forecheck with Hextall around because of his puckhandling and physicality, but his freelancing and temper occasionally became liabilities. In the 1989 playoffs, Hextall earned a 12-game suspension for leaving his net and attacking Montreal’s Chris Chelios to avenge a hit earlier in the series that knocked Brian Propp unconscious. Hextall was a tranquil personality off the ice but was defined by his temper on it.

Injuries kept him from remaining a true workhorse netminder in the second half of his career. He thus never quite amassed a Hall of Fame resume. But he remains one of the most unique, entertaining and intimidating people ever to patrol the blue paint.

Born: May 3, 1964, Brandon, Man.
NHL Career: 1986-99
Teams: Phi, Que, NYI
Stats: 296-214-69, 2.97 GAA, .895 SP, 23 SO
All-Star: 1 (First-1)
Trophies: 2 (Vezina-1, Smythe-1)

DID YOU KNOW?

On Dec. 8, 1987, Hextall became the first NHL netminder to score a “real” goal. Billy Smith had been credited with the first goalie goal in 1979, but Hextall was the first to actually fire the puck the length of the ice into a net.

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_12694039

Will Bergeron and DeBrusk Return to the Bruins?

The Boston Bruins' first-round elimination by the Carolina Hurricanes leaves general manager Don Sweeney facing some interesting off-season decisions.

2022 IIHF World Championship

Men's World Championship Roundup: Tight Games Aplenty

Sweden and Switzerland are still looking strong, while Norway and France both scored big wins, in Wednesday's World Championship action in Finland.

Screenshot_1
Play

From the Archives: The Magic Elixir That Amazed the Rangers

Since there was nothing in the National Hockey League's 1950-51 rulebook that forbade the Rangers from drinking a "magic elixir" to gain a playoff berth, the Blueshirts did sip -- and sip and sip.