'When Goalies Were Weird' - Episode 3: Ron Hextall 🎧

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"When Goalies Were Weird" is a six-part narrative podcast about 1990s-era NHL goalies. In the '90s, the position was undergoing a revolution in style and substance, as the butterfly goalie replaced the stand-up while advancements in equipment technology helped usher in a modernized, more athletic playing style. The old guard's quirks and the new guard's innovations melded together to produce an era of pure chaos in the blue paint.

Ron Hextall was the ultimate disrupter, a fierce goalie who entertained with a unique skill set. During two lengthy stints in Philadelphia and short stays in Quebec City and New York, Hextall revolutionized puck-handling for netminders while rarely shying away from a fight. This is his story.

To hear the full Ron Hextall episode, click here to listen on:

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Spotify
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(Note: This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and length.)

Ron Hextall is credited with five NHL fights - two against goalies Felix Potvin and Alain Chevrier, and three against skaters Jeff Jackson, Rob Pearson, and Chris Chelios.

The 1996 bout with Potvin is arguably the greatest goalie fight of all time, while the 1989 tussle with Chelios is probably the altercation Hextall's best known for.

On that May night in '89, Hextall charged at Chelios deep in the Philadelphia Flyers' zone a few seconds after the whistle had been blown on an offside. He then struck the Montreal Canadiens defenseman with his stick and blocker, eliciting a melee that had been brewing throughout the Prince of Wales Conference Final.

Former Flyers defenseman Mark Howe laughs now at the irony of Philadelphia head coach Paul Holmgren lecturing his players about keeping their cool right before the infamous incident.

"Holmer called a timeout and calls us to the bench. The game was starting to get a little ugly. We were getting ready to pull the goalie, but we needed a goal," Howe recalled.

"Holmer said, 'Look, if we're going down, we're going down with pride and dignity.' ... And so we took the faceoff. They win it, they throw it down. I have no idea how Chelios got down in our corner, but there's Chelios. ... I'm racing, trying to get there, and I look out of the corner of my eye, and I see this jersey. I say, 'Who is that?! Oh, my God, it's Hexy!' Pounding away at him and stuff."

Howe adds that it was Hextall's "Gordie Howe move of retribution."

That phrasing is the essence of Hextall's violence, according to not only Gordie's son, but also several other ex-teammates. Nine times out of 10, the hothead goalie was responding to some kind of perceived injustice. In the case of Chelios, an unpenalized hit on Flyers player Brian Propp in Game 1 of the series had set off Hextall, and in his mind, retribution was necessary.

Hextall was suspended 12 games for the attack. As the league disciplinarian stated in his report, "Even though there was no injury involved, Hextall showed a complete disrespect for the league and the game by taking it upon himself to (exact) revenge."

Opponents seemed to generally regard Hextall as fair game, taking liberties and stoking his temper because he rarely looked the other way. There's a video on YouTube titled "Ron Hextall Violence." It's a three-minute mixtape that's been viewed more than 600,000 times - and it isn't the only glowing tribute in circulation.

Curiously, Hextall might not have been able to get away with all of these shenanigans in any other organization. The Bobby Clarke-captained Flyers had made a name for themselves in the 1970s as the Broad Street Bullies, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in '74 and '75. Hextall, Howe notes, was a prototypical gritty Flyer fueled by winning.

There's one practice story from Hextall's first stint with the club that's become part of Flyers lore. It involves Hextall, an overzealous goal celebration, and some retribution.

Former NHL goalie and GM Garth Snow, Hextall's partner at the time, shared the gory details:

"At the end of practice, guys would line up at the blue line and do breakaways," Snow said. "And, whenever someone scored on him, they would celebrate just to get on Hexy's nerves.

"Defenseman Karl Dykhuis scored, and he's celebrating, and he comes up the boards to Hexy. Hexy fires a puck, and it hits Dykhuis square in the face. Bleeding out. Stitches. And I remember Dykhuis going, 'What the f---!' That was Hexy. He didn't mean to hit him in the face with it. He felt so bad after, but he got so pissed off - and he could fire that puck. He just ripped one and cut him open for six, eight stitches or something on a game day.

"Just hated to be scored on."

To hear the full Ron Hextall episode, click here to listen on:

Apple Podcasts
Spotify
Google Podcasts
Stitcher
Castbox
Pocket Casts

And be sure to follow the podcast to check out all six episodes of "When Goalies Were Weird."

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'When Goalies Were Weird' - Episode 3: Ron Hextall 🎧
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