Twenty years ago on December 9, 1987, Philadelphia Flyer Ron Hextall was the first goalie to score a goal in the NHL.
I was at that game at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. It was against the Boston Bruins.
I remember that strange game for a couple of reasons.
Defenseman Brad Marsh, who was one of the last players in the league to not wear a helmet, was cross-checked very hard and hit his head on a corner of the glass above the boards. He went out cold. When the medics tended to him on the ice, they put him on a stretcher and then put a towel over his face and carried him off. I remember thinking at the time, “Oh my god, he’s dead.” He wasn’t thankfully but it was a strange thing for them to do.
After that, the vibe in the building was different, antogonistic, even by hockey terms.
People had been speculating whether Ron Hextall would ever score a goal, he was so active with the puck, handier than most goalies. He always said he would only try it under certain conditions. It had to be during a power play so that he could pass the puck over more than 2 lines. Also, the Flyers had to have at least a 2-goal lead or he wouldn’t risk it. And it had to be near the end of the game so the other team would pull their goalie and leave the net empty.
After the Brad Marsh incident, there was ample opportunity. I remember the crowd collectively yelling “Shoot” but he missed. The chance came again, and again the crowd shouted “Shoot” and he did and he made history.
Here’s a clip of him doing it again two years later during the playoffs against the Washington Capitols.
Here are both goals introduced by hockey great Wayne Gretzky