In this week’s Getting To Know, Dennis Hextall explains the unique opportunity he got when learning how to skate, tells the story of a fan who jumped onto a teammate and talks an incident involving Don Cherry.
Status: Former NHL left winger from 1967-1980 with Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, California Golden Seals, Minnesota North Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals. Currently coaches hockey in Edwards, Colorado at Battle Mountain HS.
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 175 pounds
DOB: April 17, 1943 In: Poplar Point, M.B.
First Hockey Memory: “I grew up in a hockey family. My father (Bryan) played with the Rangers in the 1930s and 1940s. We traveled to New York in the winters. He retired when I was five.”
Hockey Inspirations: “As a kid, with my father in the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup, leading the league in scoring. Another player I admired was Andy Bathgate.”
First Famous Player You Met Or Encountered: “We used to go skate at Madison Square after the Rangers had practice. I remember the first time I had skates on it was at Madison Square Garden — not to many guys can say they started skating at Madison Square Garden [chuckles].”
Greatest Sports Moment(s): “I never won the Stanley Cup and that would have been the greatest moment. I remember one time my family came down to Minnesota and we played Pittsburgh and I scored a hat trick with my family there watching. That was a pretty special moment.”
Most Painful Moment: “I had one knee operation, just from wear and tear on the knees, not from one injury. I guess there was a few. I remember I had a pretty brutal moment with Wayne Cashman. We both could have really hurt each other. We both had tempers and we both played physical — if we did today what we did back then, we both could have been kicked out of the league. We both got fined, we both got suspended. It happened at Boston Garden, a Sunday afternoon game of the week.”
Favorite Uniforms: “I think playing in Detroit, an Original Six uniform, that might’ve been it.”
Favorite Rinks To Play: “The Old Olympia was fun, it was sort of egg-shaped. But I think the old Minnesota Met Stadium might have had the best ice in the league — really good ice, always fast. I liked the old rinks with the balconies, where the crowd was on top of you.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “There’s a few that are funny at times — but can also be a pain in the ass [smiles]. There were a lot of characters in the game — like Bryan ‘Bugsy’ Watson and Eddie Shack. They were funny, they were characters on and off the ice but a steady dose of them was sometime too much [smiles].”
Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “I made a few bad passes in my own end zone. We all do it. You pass the puck across in your own end, they knock it down and the next thing you know it’s in the net. I remember one time in Oakland, we were playing Chicago and our coach Fred Glover said he was going to put Gerry Ehman on my wing and our line was going to check Bobby Hull. And after the first period the score was 5-0 for Chicago and Hull scored three goals. We didn’t do a very good job.”
Strangest Game: “It was stupid. I remember one night coming off the ice after we beat the Rangers at Madison Square, at the top of the entrance where the Zamboni came out, some idiot jumped down ten or twelve feet right on top of Caesar Maniago. You talk about a stupid situation — he could have killed Caesar.”
Closest Hockey Friends: “I never really stayed in touch with the guys from Minnesota but we were pretty close. J.P. Parise and Billy Goldsworthy were my wingers and both passed away. My teammate from college at North Dakota, Dale Stauss, is one of my closest friends. Another is Tommy Williams — we became good friends the last ten to fifteen years playing with the Red Wings alumni. Our wives are friends. We went out to Windsor last week and had lunch with them.”
Funny Hockey Memory: “There’s always the odd thing, I guess. When I first came up in the minors we played against the Rochester Americans and, who is the former Bruins coach, now the TV commentator… Don Cherry — Don Cherry speared me. I turned around and nailed him. Really gave it to him. Held him up for the referees. In his book he said the worst time I ever got beaten up was by Dennis Hextall. Since then, on TV, he always says he got suckered, or someone held him — he always had an excuse. But he started it and I finished it. After that, whenever we played Boston, they always came at me, Terry O’Reilly was a really tough player and a good player, and he was a lefty.”
Favorite Sport Outside Hockey: “Skiing and hunting.”
Most Memorable Goal: “I scored two winners against Philadelphia in the playoffs, the year they beat us out. Both games, games one and three. They beat us out 4-2 in six games. Those were always tough games with Philadelphia.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “I just like people… I treat people the way they treat me. Straight up is what I like.”
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