Somewhere in North Jersey, assistant general manager Ron Hextall is enjoying the LA Kings’ Game 1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Twenty-five years ago today, Hextall was the rookie in between the pipes who took the Flyers to Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals. He watched Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers hoist the Stanley Cup after losing Game 7 3-1 despite saving 40 shots.
His stellar Game 7 performance helped earn Hexy the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, only the fourth time that the award was given to a player on the losing team.
Hextall played in 26 playoff games, setting a NHL record that year for most games played in the postseason by a goalie.
We have seen some remarkable playoff runs by goalies but Hextall’s performance, especially as a rookie, against arguably one of the best teams ever assembled has to be at the top in NHL history. Gretzky was just one of the six future Hall of Famers that was on that Oilers team that featured three of the top 10 scorers in the league.
“Hextall is probably the best goaltender I’ve ever played against in the NHL. Just when you think you’ll bombard him, he comes up with the big saves,” Gretzky said.
What made Hexy such a great goaltender and Flyer is his fiery passion and short temper. He started the 1987-88 season with an eight-game suspension for a slash on Oilers forward Kent Nilsson in the Finals. He set the record for most penalty minutes by a goaltender in a season with 113 in 1988-89.
Hextall finished his rookie season with 37 wins to earn the Vezina Trophy and solidify himself as a Flyers fan favorite forever.
Hexy holds the Flyers record for most career playoff wins with 45 but even that wasn’t enough to bring a championship home to Philadelphia.
Now, twenty five years in the making, Hextall is just three wins away from finally getting his name etched on hockey’s most prized possession.