Former Philly great is back in Ed Snider’s Full Employment Club for Former Flyers with experience he got in LA as an assistant general manager of a Stanley Cup champion. But with little money, because Paul Holmgren mismanaged the salary cap, he will be sorely tested

By Sam Bush

Ron Hextall is back in Philly, where for 11 seasons he made his bones as an NHL goalie, including the losing 1987 Stanley Cup final series in he was named the MVP.

When Hextall walked into the Wells Fargo Center for the first time as the GM, he ran into many of the same staff that had been with the team when he was a player and later when he worked as a scout and director of professional player personnel.

“It was like, ‘Hi guys, how are you doing?’ It was almost like I never left,” he said.

Weird? Maybe.

“I feel like I’ve come home,” Hextall said.

That is the Flyer way. You might go elsewhere, as icons Bob Clarke and current president Paul Holmgren did, but there is something that draws many back to the franchise.

If the Flyers are to take another step forward and ultimately capture a third championship that has eluded the franchise since winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, the key to the puzzle is surely Hextall.

And if there is one personality trait that will help this team achieve something that has been missing for a generation, it is his patience, Holmgren said.

“If you only knew him as a player, you’d think he wouldn’t have any,” former Flyers coach and GM and current president Holmgren told “He’s got a really sharp, analytical mind for the game.”

But both Holmgren and Craig Berube, who took over as head coach three games into last season, said that the player who became beloved in Philly for his emotional play that included memorable confrontations (and subsequent suspensions) with players such as Kent Nilsson and Chris Chelios, not to mention a Most Valuable Player turn during the 1987 Stanley Cup finals, is well-suited to be an NHL GM and well-suited to the challenge in Philly.

“Ron is a big part of the equation,” Holmgren said.

Fans didn’t see him away from the game, Berube added in an interview.

“He’s a smart guy. He’s pretty laid-back and pretty composed off the ice,” the coach said.

Berube said he hasn’t been surprised by Hextall’s presence since taking over as GM.

“I think it’s what I thought it would be,” Berube said. “He wants the little things done properly.”

If this was just about symmetry, “Oh, Hextall left and came back,” it would hardly rank as a compelling tale. But what gives this story texture and, if you’re a Flyers fan, hope, it’s not just that Hextall left and came back, but it’s where he went and what he learned when he was gone.

Working under Kings GM Dean Lombardi, a man who also has strong ties to the Flyers organization, Hextall saw firsthand how a team redefines itself.

“I think the biggest thing was, when we went there, we kind of redid the whole infrastructure of the organization,” Hextall said. “So, that experience, I think, is invaluable. The trainers, the coaches, the scouting staff. Everything with the minor league operation, everything was kind of uprooted and changed and the hiring of people, how important it was to hire the right people, not just people.

“I think the synergy between the amateur staff and your development people and your minor league coaches, like that whole chain of progression, is huge.

“Dean’s a very analytical guy. I’m an analytical guy. He analyzes things up down and all around, and I think I learned a lot on that side of it.”

Does he use the lessons learned across the continent?

“Every day,” he said.

Already the Flyers are looking to redefine how their young assets are developed as their AHL affiliate moves into a new home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with better facilities and staff to support the young players.

In a cap system, “I don’t know if you can ever be good enough” at drafting and developing your assets, Hextall said.

Mike Futa, the Kings director of player personnel and vice president of hockey operations, worked closely with Hextall and said that just as the Flyers GM learned from his time in Los Angeles, those who worked alongside him learned as much.

“It was just an incredible learning experience to be around him,” Futa told “The way he conducts himself. His professionalism.”

Some ex-players are not prepared to put in the hours to be successful off the ice, especially guys who have been stars, Futa said.

That isn’t the case with Hextall.

“He’s a pro. He’s just a pro,” Futa said.

And while he was undeniably a part of the Kings family, he truly has come home, a journey not everyone gets to take.

“The sky’s the limit. I’m just so happy for him,” Futa said. “Once a Flyer, always a Flyer.”

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