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Ultimately, we now have two great hockey minds in positions of power. And I coached new Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, so I would like to share my insight. He was unique as a player, with a crazy passion for the game of hockey.
I went to Winnipeg, Canada to scout him as a junior and I had heard before making the trip that he was aggressive, he read plays well, he had a good vision and anticipated where the puck was going; he could even shoot the puck well. The first time I saw him play, I think he had eight or nine goals scored against him in that game, but I still liked the way he played. Everyone has bad nights, but he still challenged the shooters, looked for the shot from the blue line, and positioned himself accordingly. He was an intelligent goaltender.
Even with those nine goals scored against him, I saw something special. His energy created a leader in him. And you need a leader at goal, a leader on defense, and a leader on offense. Hextall was that leader. You could hear him talking to his defensemen and offering them insight and guidance. He carried all of this with him all throughout his career.
I brought all of the information back to Keith Allen from Winnipeg, Canada and told him he’d be a great fit for the orange and black. We drafted him 119th overall in the 1982 NHL draft.
At this time, I was the goalie coach for the Flyers working with Pelle Lindbergh. Hextall came up to play with the Flyers in the 1984 season, played a couple years in the farm system, and after Pelle passed in 1985, Hextall had one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen as a rookie during the 1986-1987 season, which won him the Vezina trophy. Ultimately, the Flyers lost the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers, but Hextall was still awarded the Conn Smythe trophy. I knew he had it as a junior, but the progression he made was amazing.
Being a professional goalie and Hall of Famer, critiquing his play as he made it into the NHL was truly fascinating. Everything he exuded as a junior intensified in the NHL. Every skill and attribute that he had was perfected: his leadership, vision, enthusiasm, etc.
Hextall was the first goaltender to score a goal in the opposing net. He really changed the game. How incredible is that? Not to mention, he took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals…twice.
Everyone knew what Hextall did on the ice, how loud and aggressive he was. But in the locker room, he was a typical goalie: quiet. If he had a bad game, he rarely expressed himself. But do you want to know what really showed everyone the type of player Hextall was? When he left the net to go after Chris Chelios after Chelios knocked out Brian Propp with a cheap shot. Hextall was the ultimate warrior, possessed a rare intensity and stuck up for his team members. That was a defining moment in his career.
We have Paul Holmgren as team president, who started out as a hockey player, made his way up to a scout, and then a general manager. And along comes Ron Hextall, who was one of the greatest goalies the Philadelphia Flyers organization has ever seen, who moved on to be a scout, then a successful assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings, and back to his home sweet home of Philadelphia as our new general manager. We now have two hockey-oriented minds making the decisions.
The best part of all of this is that these qualities stick with you, and I see all of these qualities and values expressed in Hextall’s position as general manager.
The heads of the Flyers organization have played so many roles on their way up the ladder and are experienced in all areas of the game of hockey. I think all of this passion, dedication, and team identity that radiates from Hextall will reflect into his managing.
Hextall took “don’t mess with my teammate” to the next level. Whatever it was you thought you were going to get away with, Hextall ripped that right out from under you. Not only will this resonate with the current Flyers roster physically, but having that sort of mental attitude on top of all the preparations will take this team far.
In this position of power, you are more likely to pursue athletes that play the way you played. And I can’t wait to see it come to fruition.
The Goalie Net Camp
July 29th to August 2nd, 2013
IceWorks Complex – Aston, PA
Had a great time getting back on the ice with the kids!
Below is my first article posted today on Philly.com. Enjoy.
Let’s forget my career with the Philadelphia Flyers, back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, and Hall of Fame induction, just for one minute. Even though these significant events have opened many doors and opportunities beyond my wildest dreams, I am here to introduce you to the human side of me; the primitive side, the animal side, the “wolf.”
I have been to the very top, and I’ve been blinded by darkness, literally and figuratively; which in turn, forced me to dig deep inward. We are meant for so much more, and if you make the active decision to propel yourself forward, face your fears, and take risks, you can accomplish your goals.
The fear I have faced and battled, in direct correlation with the risks I’ve taken, have allowed me to find true success, freedom, and the wolf inside. I have made it my goal to help people around me, people I meet, even by coincidence, break free from their cage, disregard personal boundaries, and find true happiness and success.
If you think fear and risk are behind us, a figment of the past and don’t surface in our every day lives, you couldn’t be more wrong.
On December 31st, 2011, I took one of the biggest risks to date.
Let me paint this picture for you. You are the starting goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers in the Winter Classic Alumni game. You are about to step on the ice for the first time in about 30 years, in front of 45,000 people with millions more watching at home, with the expectation to PERFORM in front of the fans you love, at the age of 66.
Without question, I had a tremendous amount of fears that most importantly included a failed performance, disappointing my fans and not being able to perform at the same level and create the same reaction I had 30 years prior. I had everything to lose and nothing to gain. I had no choice but to let the wolf take over and take the risk that ultimately proved to be one of the best decisions I had made for my life and career.
The five minutes that I was given on the ice during the Winter Classic Alumni game, surrounded by the best fans in America, were exhilarating and liberating. The feelings were equal to what I had felt after winning those back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. I had just filled a void that had been steadily increasing for 35 years, and as I stood with my teammates on center ice, the feeling I felt, no money in the world could ever buy it. What if I would have given in to my fear and sat the bench and just waved?
It wasn’t about saying goodbye as an athlete. I accomplished that during my retirement ceremony as my banner was raised. My decision to play was about having the balls to go out there at 66 years old and be a participant, not a spectator. I accomplished something that only a performance of that stature would provide; not thinking about it, not dreaming about it, but doing it.
The wolf would not let my fear of the unknown hold me back, and I reaped the greatest benefits.
Now that I’ve set the tone, revealed my goal to help people find what makes them tick and my purpose for joining Philly.com, I’d like to turn the focus to the month of February and Valentine’s Day.
For some, Valentine’s Day is a time to show your appreciation for loved ones. For others, it’s a day of impending doom, a pointless “holiday,” and a yearly reminder of the reasons you are single.
Being that I am a seasoned ladies man and “Philadelphia’s most interesting man,” I have the same message for both types of people: Find your wolf.
If you are single, allow yourself to do some inner-searching and find the person that you want to be, so you are ready and willing to share that with someone else when the time comes. Remember, happy feelings will attract happy circumstances.
For those of you that are in a relationship, let your partner be their own wolf. Don’t restrict your partner. Let them fulfill who they are as an individual; it does not mean they don’t love you. If you let them go, let them do, they will explore and be their own person. That is what makes the bond between the two of you stronger.
Don’t leash them, don’t cage them, just have fun. And do it together.
“I am a free spirit; either admire me from the ground or fly with me, but don’t ever try to cage me.” –Unknown.
I’ll open up the floor to the readers. Email me your questions.
Stay horny, my friends.
–The Most Interesting Man in Philadelphia
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I’m excited to hear some feedback!