Mention the name Ron Hextall to any Philadelphia sports fan thirty years and older and you will get a response unlike most any other Flyer player in history. And that’s not only Flyers history, but in all of Philadelphia sports history. Why? Because when you talk about Ron Hextall, it’s hard not to raise your tone, get a little more intense and speak with the same passion, grit, and determination that he brought to the Flyers each and every night. He was not only the goalie, he was a fiery leader who never turned away from any physical play around the net. Giving a slash on the legs of an opponent trying to screen his sight lines or shoving a player after the whistle was common for Hextall.
…And when you head hunt a Flyers All Star left-winger, someone’s going to make you pay.
It was in Game 6 of the Conference finals vs. the Montreal Canadiens. The Flyers were down three games to two and facing elimation on home ice. With the Flyers trailing 4-2 with less than two minutes to go, Ron decided he’d had enough and took matters into his own hands. Hextall went after Chelios in retaliation of a “flying elbow” put onto teammate Brian Propp back in Game 1 of the series. That hit caused Propp to be stretchered off of the ice and miss Game 2, a 3-0 Montreal win.
Hextall charged after the Canadiens’ star defenseman near the right faceoff circle after an offsides call late in the game. He clipped him with a butt end, then tackled, punched, and grappled with Chelios as the linesman tried to pull them apart. The rest of the remaining players piled in to the corner too, as old- fashioned “donnybrook” broke out. One of the lasting images of the incident is of a jersey-less Hextall, barking at Chelios as they were separated and Ron firing his blocker at him in one final attempt to get at Chelios.
Another highlight of the scrum was the Flyers' Kjell Samuelsson landing a left-handed haymaker to the face of Montreal’s Bobby Smith, who was mixing it up with Flyers captain Dave Poulin along the boards. Montreal's goalie Patrick Roy (who did not skate down the ice to join) only “after” the melee decided he wanted a piece of Hextall. He was standing at his own blue line waving his arms, and briefly removed his mask as if to try and antagonize the Flyers’ goalie. If it weren’t for the restraint of linesman Dennis Gauthier on Hextall, Roy would have gotten way more than he bargained for.
The hit on Chelios earned Hextall a 12-game suspension for the start of the 1989-'90 season. Following the incident, Hextall was quoted as saying that he only wanted to “fight” Chelios, not hurt him. Regardless of his intentions, Hextall showed that he had his teammates backs no matter what and gave Flyers fans one of the more memorable fights in their storied history.
You can see the video of the incident below:
Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99