Ron Hextall was the first NHL grandson to play in the league. His father and grandfather had also played. Bryan Hextall Sr. played 11 seasons with the New York Rangers and won the scoring title in 1941-42. His son, Ron's father, played nine less glamorous years before retiring in 1976. Ron's Uncle Dennis also played in the league as a fourthline player of limited talent. Ron, however, was the first Hextall to venture into the net.
The result of his time as a skater, though, was that Ron became perhaps the game's most mobile goalie of all time. It also gave him a desire to do something no goalie had ever done before score. Sure enough, the night of December 8, 1987, in a game against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers had a two-goal lead and the Bruins pulled their goalie in the last minute. Hextall got the puck near the side of his net and fired it in, the first time a goalie had ever shot a puck into the opposition goal. (Billy Smith of the Islanders was once credited with a goal for being the last player to touch the puck before the other team scored into its own goal.) Incredibly, Hextall replicated the feat in the playoffs. On April 11, 1989, he again fired the puck into the open net, against Washington, thus also becoming the first goalie to score in a playoff game.
Hextall's style was physical, aggressive and unheard of. He would chase the puck anywhere in his own end, and his own players routinely shot the puck back to him when killing a penalty. Along with being a goal scorer, he also set every possible penalty-minutes record for a goalie, collecting more than 100 on two occasions and no goalie had ever come anywhere near the 100 mark. The first time came in his rookie season, when he was assessed 104 minutes. The very next year he broke that mark. He was also the most willing fighter among pad-wearers the game had ever known and as a result was suspended on numerous occasions.
In that rookie season, 1986-87, he took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals against the dynasty of the Edmonton Oilers. He played heroically in defeat and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff excellence, but in game four of that series, he slashed Kent Nilsson viciously and was suspended for the first eight games of the 1987-88 season. In the 1989 playoffs, he committed a foul of equal violence. Late in the team's final game against the Montreal Canadiens, in which the Habs were clearly going to win and eliminate the Flyers, Hextall skated into the corner and attacked Montreal defenseman Chris Chelios, hitting the surprised player repeatedly with his blocker. For that Hextall received a 12 game suspension to start the 1989-90 season, and upon returning he suffered a series of small injuries that limited him to eight games for the year. In an exhibition game against Detroit to start the 1991-92 season, he slashed Jim Cummins and was given another six-game suspension.
And his stickwork wasn't confined to the enemy. He was invited to Team Canada's camp for the 1987 Canada Cup and during practice he chopped Sylvain Turgeon's arm because he was apparently too close in front of Hextall's goal. Turgeon's forearm was fractured and he missed the tournament. Hextall didn't play in that Canada Cup, but he did play at the World Championship in 1992, his only international participation.
After being traded to the Nordiques and the Islanders, Hextall finished his career once again with the Flyers, taking the team to the 1997 finals before losing to the Detroit Red Wings, the closest he ever came to the Cup. After retiring, he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in the fall of 2001.
On June 13, 2006 the Los Angeles Kings announced Ron Hextall would become assistant general manager and general manager of Manchester Monarchs of the AHL.