/Ron Hextall and when the door opened for goalies to score

Ron Hextall and when the door opened for goalies to score

It’s extremely rare for a goalie to score, but when it does happen, it probably means either one of two things; an empty net under near-perfect circumstances, or that the other team screwed up.

As far as the former is concerned, Ron Hextall made that possible 30 years ago.

On Dec. 8, 1987, in a home game against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers goaltender became the first in NHL history at the position to shoot and score a goal. “Shoot” is the key word there, since the New York Islanders’ Billy Smith was actually the first NHL goalie to be credited with one after the Colorado Rockies put the puck into their own empty net in a game on Nov. 28, 1979.

With it being the 30th anniversary of a pretty unique aspect of NHL history, Hextall’s goal was acknowledged and reflected on across the hockey world last week. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take one more look back on the moment, especially considering that a lot had to go right for it to happen.

 

The Bruins were down 4-2 late in the third period after Peter Zezel scored his second of the night on the power play and Brian Propp added an insurance goal just short of three minutes later. Boston, in desperation mode, pulled Reggie Lemelin for the extra attacker.

With under 1:30 to play and the clock ticking, Ray Bourque dumped the puck in from the neutral zone. Hextall was right there to meet it, and flipped the puck back over to center ice. On the Flyers’ broadcast, Gene Hart noted on commentary that Hextall, who excelled at handling the puck at his position, “could score a goal sometimes…in a situation like this.”

The Bruins recovered the puck, reset, and dumped it back in. Once again, Hextall was right there to collect the puck, and Boston’s four forwards weren’t quick or aggressive enough to get into the zone and pressure him.

With more than enough space and time, Hextall took aim and launched a shot that sailed over five Bruins and slid by Bourque, the only defenseman back (though he wouldn’t have been able to chase the shot down anyway), into the empty net.

Hextall put the Flyers up 5-2, sealing the win and making history in the process as his teammates swarmed him down the other end of the ice.

 

Philadelphia Inquirer, D1, Dec. 9, 1987, “A long shot into NHL record books” – Jere Longman (via newspapers.com)

But for it to all work, Hextall needed the strength and accuracy to shoot the puck almost 180 feet down the ice, past every Bruin, and into a 4×6 net (it may seem simple watching from the stands or on TV, but it’s a much different story at ice level). Not to mention, he needed enough time to line up the shot before Boston’s forecheck closed in on him.

On that night in December, however, it all fell into place.

 

Philadelphia Daily News, Pg. 94, Dec. 9, 1987, “Hextall’s Goal One for Books” – Jay Greenberg (via newspapers.com)

Then he did it again.

 

There have been 14 goals in the NHL credited to goaltenders, either by a shot on goal or the goalie being the last to touch the puck before the opposing team put it in their own net. 11 of those goals came in the years after Hextall shot and scored his two.

Here is the full list…

Billy Smith, New York Islanders, via own goal by Rob Ramage, Nov. 29, 1979 against the Colorado Rockies.

Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers, via shot on goal,  Dec. 8, 1987 against the Boston Bruins.

Ron Hextall, Philadephia Flyers, via shot on goal, April 11, 1989 (Stanley Cup Playoffs, Patrick Division Semifinals) against the Washington Capitals.

Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings, via shot on goal, March 6, 1996, against the Hartford Whalers.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, via shot on goal, April 17, 1997 (Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals) against the Montreal Canadiens.

Damian Rhodes, Ottawa Senators, via own goal by Lyle Odelein, Jan. 2, 1999 against the New Jersey Devils.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, via own goal by Daymond Langkow, Feb. 15, 2000 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens, via shot on goal, Jan. 2, 2001 against the New York Islanders.

Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks, via shot on goal, March 10, 2002 against the Vancouver Canucks.

Mika Noronen, Buffalo Sabres, via own goal by Robert Reichel, Feb. 14, 2004 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Chris Mason, Nashville Predators, via own goal by Geoff Sanderson, April 15, 2006 against the Phoenix Coyotes. 

Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, via own goal by Ilya Kovalchuk, Dec. 26, 2011 against the New Jersey Devils.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, via own goal by Jordan Staal, March 21, 2013 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes, via shot on goal, Oct. 19, 2013 against the Detroit Red Wings. 

 

Nick has been obsessed with hockey ever since he saw The Mighty Ducks for the first time when he was three. A graduate of Temple University, he currently works on the sports desk at The Philadelphia Inquirer while contributing to GNGHockey.