PHILADELPHIA – Ron Hextall got his “dream job.”
Hextall was promoted to general manager by the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday to replace Paul Holmgren, who was elevated to president. Hextall is Philadelphia’s all-time winningest goalie and served as assistant GM last year.
“When I was done playing 15 years ago, my next goal was to become a general manager,” Hextall said. “I’ve been very fortunate to work under Bobby Clarke, Paul Holmgren, and Dean Lombardi out in Los Angeles – three very good people but also three very astute people who I took a lot of lessons from the last 15 years.
Holmgren replaced Clarke as GM during the 2006-07 season and led the Flyers to within two games of the Stanley Cup title in 2010. He played for the Flyers from 1975-84 and coached them from 1988-92.
“I’m excited about what’s ahead for me,” Holmgren said.
The Flyers were eliminated by the New York Rangers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. They haven’t won a Cup since 1975, but have reached the Finals and lost six times.
Despite heavy criticism in Philadelphia for failing to win it all, the Flyers have long been considered one of the top NHL franchises. They’ve earned a playoff berth in 39 of their 46 seasons.
“The culture of winning is nothing to be embarrassed about,” said Hextall, adding the Flyers are a “model” organization. “We should all be proud of this organization and what they’ve done. Short of winning the Stanley Cup, this organization has done everything. There’s nothing anyone here won’t do to win a Stanley Cup.”
Hextall previously spent seven seasons as vice-president and assistant GM with the Los Angeles Kings. The 50-year-old Hextall played 13 seasons in the NHL and had two stints covering 11 years with the Flyers.
He burst on the scene in 1986, won the Vezina Trophy and helped the Flyers get within one win of the Stanley Cup before losing to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers on the road in Game 7 in 1987. Hextall was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the playoffs that year.
Hextall had 296 career wins in the regular season, including 240 for the Flyers. He retired in 1999 and joined the Flyers’ front office. He spent three years as a pro scout and four as director of pro player personnel before joining the Kings in 2006.
“Ron is one of the league’s bright young stars on the management side, and we’re very fortunate to have him,” Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. “He’s had success in Los Angeles and will now put that experience to work for us as general manager. We all remember the enthusiasm, work ethic and personality he had as a player, and we’re excited to watch him bring those qualities to building a team that will contend for the Stanley Cup.”
Hextall became the first NHL goalie to score a goal by shooting the puck into the opponent’s empty net. He also became the first goalie to score a goal in the playoffs. Hextall was known for his fiery temper as a player. His attacked Montreal’s Chris Chelios during the 1989 playoffs, sparking a brawl.
“There is an on-ice guy and an off-ice guy,” Holmgren said. “What I see now is an off-ice guy who is very intelligent, very articulate and knows the game inside and out. It has been growing over the last 15 years so he’s obviously learned from that.”
Hextall has a strong core of players, including Hart Trophy finalist Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. After years of searching for a true No. 1 goalie, it seems they have one now in Steve Mason.
“The thing I really like about our team is everybody talks about our forwards, and that’s a good group, but it’s a young group as well. And that’s important,” Hextall said. “A lot of these guys are going to get better, and we’ve got to take it upon ourselves to help them get better every day.”