Hextall completes full circle with Rutherford

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The Jim Rutherford-Ron Hextall story — spaced out over 50 years — has movie potential.

The Coles notes: veteran National Hockey League goalie befriends young son of a team-mate in the early 1970s; teaches him some goaltending tricks of the trade. 

Fifty years later, that veteran goaltender-turned NHL executive retires and is replaced by that same seven-year-old lad he played with 50 years ago. That youngster is now a 56-year-old with an extensive hockey background.

Lights! Camera! Action!

At the press conference announcing his hiring as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in early February, Hextall reflected on his relationship with Rutherford, who stepped down Jan. 27 for what was termed ‘personal reasons.’ 

Young Hextall, an aspiring netminder who was aged five through nine while his dad, Bryan, Jr., played for the Pens, would hang around the dressing room waiting for his dad to shower after practice, getting tips from Rutherford while he waited.

Their paths separated after Bryan Hextall retired from the NHL in the mid-1970s after more than 500 games and 99 goals. 

After retirement in 1983, Rutherford went on to a 27-year stint as general manager of Hartford/Carolina and Pittsburgh. 

Young Ron Hextall, meanwhile, made a name for himself as a junior goalie star with his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings, a 13-year career in the NHL where he was a Rookie-of-the-Year winner and later a Conn Smythe trophy recipient. 

After retiring, he took on a front office job with  Los Angeles Kings and then served four years as general manager of Philadelphia Flyers.

Then, in early February, the Penguins announced that Hextall would be Rutherford’s replacement as general manager, making complete the circle of friendship that began back in 1971. 

Brian Burke, longtime NHL executive and more recently a Sportsnet TV analyst, was hired alongside Hextall to run the Penguins show.

Besides getting goaltending tips from Rutherford, Hextall reminisced about playing road hockey with a couple of Pirates baseball players who lived in the Hextall family’s upscale Green Tree neighbourhood, Rennie Stennent and Manny Sanguiillen.

“I’ve come full circle,” Hextall said in a Penguins press release. 

His hiring certainly cements the Hextall name in the foundation of the NHL. 

His grandfather, Bryan, Sr., scored the overtime winning goal in 1940 for New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

His father, of course, played more than 500 games in the league, as did his uncle, Dennis Hextall. 

Now, Ron is in an ultra-exclusive group — one of 31 NHL general managers.

Hollywood could have fun with this one.

Slap Shots

• Josh Braaten on Twitter, about the great Tom Brady: “If he really wants to cement his legacy, he’ll do this in a Vikings jersey a year from now.”

• Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports, on the scrambling required by the two Super Bowl quarterbacks:  (Patrick) Mahomes was running for his life, while (Tom) Brady had time to make himself a sandwich.”

• Patti Dawn Swansson, aka the River City Renegade, on ex-Jet Patrik Laine being benched for half of his fourth game under coach John Tortorella of Columbus: “Four games as a Blue Jacket and bully coach Torts turns him into a garden gnome.”

• Swansson, advising Laine about the drawbacks of signing a long-term contract with Columbus: “Can you imagine spending the next 10 years or so with someone barking in your ear? If that’s what you want, just get married.”

• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “A clearly drunk Tom Brady throws the Lombardi Super Bowl trophy 10 yards from his boat to another boat. The impressive part of that throw to me was how Brady looked off the other boat in the cover two defence.”

• Kaseberg again: “Not to say Tom Brady is getting up there, but when they asked, ‘Tom Brady, you just won the Super Bowl. Where are you going now?’ Brady said, ‘Leave me alone, Jeopardy is on.’”

• Headline in theonion.com: ‘This Cements Brady As The Second-Best Quarterback Of All Time’ Proclaims Terry Bradshaw

• Another one from theonion.com: “7,500 Health Care Workers Instinctively Rush Field To Treat Player Injury”

• Headline at dark.com: “Up for Emmy consideration: Matthew Stafford acting like it was hard to leave Detroit.”

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Offshore sports book Bovada says it won’t pay out on a $10,000 Super Bowl streaker prop bet placed by the fourth-quarter interloper — or any of his associates — that would have made them all a hefty profit. Now that’s what you call a losing streak.”

 •  Tim Hunter of Everett’s KRKO Radio, on Yankee Stadium doubling as a vaccination site: “Out of habit, Red Sox fans immediately started yelling, ‘Vaccines suck!’ ”
  •  Bob Molinaro of pilot online.com (Hampton, Va.), on the Super Bowl commercial featuring Bruce Springsteen out on the range in a Jeep: “Bruce in a cowboy hat? He’s not even from West Jersey.”

Care to comment? Email brucepenton2003@yahoo.ca.

 

by Bruce Penton

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