PHILADELPHIA — Former Philadelphia general manager Bob Clarke was among the many individuals that Ron Hextall acknowledged during his induction speech for the Flyers’ Hall-of-Fame during the 1st period intermission of Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Clarke may have played an even bigger role than most fans know.
Hextall was drafted in the 6th round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Flyers in 1982 and two years later, Clarke’s first as a general manager, Philadelphia selected Oshawa Generals’ defenceman (and current Flyers’ head coach) John Stevens (47th overall). Clarke bypassed a goaltender in that 1984 draft that surely would have delivered at least one Stanley Cup to Philadelphia and most likely would have kept Hextall from enjoying the success he had with the Orange and Black.
The other goaltender was selected by the Montreal Canadiens four picks later from the Granby Bisons (QMJHL)—his name: Patrick Roy.
Clarke, now the Flyers’ Senior Vice-President, was noticeably absent from Wednesday night’s festivities. According to a team source, he was out of town on a previously-scheduled business trip.
Hextall dropped the puck at the ceremonial face-off between netminders Martin Biron and Olie Kolzig. The Washington Capitals’ netminder had Hextall’s ear and told him, “You were an idol of mine and I was honoured playing against you.”
“We both had the same fiery temper and he was the most competitive goaltender I think I’ve ever seen,” said Kolzig. “I tried to model myself after him but unfortunately his style didn’t really work for me early on in my career so I switched over to Roy and the traditional butterfly.”
Like Hextall who became the first goaltender to shoot the puck into the net for a goal in the NHL in December 1987, Kolzig soon thereafter scored a goal while playing for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.
“One of the booster fans sent (Hextall) a note and within a month I got an autographed
5 x 7 photo saying, ‘Congratulations…see you up here soon in the NHL,’” Kolzig said. “I’ve got to dig that out of my treasure chest.”
Kolzig added that, “I wish I could’ve gone out there and seen his actual speech…it actually got me pretty pumped up.”
When Capitals’ head coach Bruce Boudreau was asked for his memories of Hextall, he quipped, “He didn’t break either of my legs but I sure ended up with more than a few bruises from standing near the net.”
The difference in the game was a non-goal by the Flyers’ Scott Hartnall in the third period.
“The puck was laying right there and I was banging away just like it was any other play,” said Hartnall. “(Kolzig) kept going in the back of the net and guys were pushing me from behind…I don’t think there was any reason for the no-goal call and if it was because I pushed the goalie in the net then I should have been in the (penalty) box for two minutes for goalie interference.”
Kolzig saw it differently.
“I made the save and the puck hadn’t crossed the line yet. (Hartnall) just continued to push me into the net and as I hit the back of the net the puck rolled over the line,” Kolzig said. “In essence, (referee Dave Jackson) said it wasn’t reviewable.”
As to why there was a protracted telephone call during the video review, Kolzig said that, “I guess he was just trying to explain to Toronto why it wasn’t reviewable. It’s almost like interference—you can’t push the goalie out of the way to keep him from making a save or playing the puck and that’s what Hartnall did.”
But the best explanation of the night came from Boudreau.
“If you’re the winning team you’re going to say that obviously (the goalie) had it and he was pushed in the net. If you’re the losing team you’re going to say the whistle hadn’t gone. Either way, you’re going to have an argument—it went in our favor today.”
Boudreau went on to say, “When you look at it from the overhead view, I didn’t see the puck and I saw the stick pushing the goalie over the line before (the puck) came loose. If you look at the other view straight on it looked like the puck was in the net.”
The end result: first place in the Southeast Division for the Washington Capitals.