The rule book required that a goalie stop at the red line, and Fay, still wondering if Ron would rather be a defense-man, sometimes asked, "Wouldn't you like to keep going?" But since he was three and began stopping a rolled-up sock he had bounced off the stairs, nothing had given Hextall more satisfaction than making a save. At the same time, there was little—except tradition—to prevent him from doing the things other position players did. By age 12, Hextall's technique and wrist strength enabled him to lift the puck on the fly as far as the red line. Scoring a goal was simply a matter of time and opportunity.
He announced his intention soon after joining the Flyers. He wouldn't risk the icing—and the face-off in the Flyer end—with a one-goal lead, but if they were up two and the opposition goalie had been pulled, he would try it. On Dec. 8, 1987, at the Spectrum, Boston's Gord Kluzak flipped the puck in and Hextall stopped it behind the goal. He turned, aimed and made history.
Hextall estimates that given time, he can hit the net five times out of 10 from 180 feet away. So far, under game conditions he's 2 for 3, having missed once, then connected for a shorthanded goal in an 8-5 win over Washington at the Capital Centre in last year's playoffs.
"I'd primarily like to be known for stopping the puck," he says. "But I'd rather be known as the goalie who scores goals than for the [suspensions]. I feel good about making a contribution to the game. It's given me a great living."
Last summer, however, he became convinced that the living wasn't as great as it could have been. Too much of the money in the eight-year, $4 million contract he had signed early in the '87-88 season was deferred over 20 years; he was earning only $325,000 a year. So he hired Rich Winter, the most confrontational agent in hockey, to renegotiate. When the Flyers refused to deal with Winter, Hextall called a press conference and tearfully said he wouldn't come to camp. "I made the decision," Hextall insists. "Rich only laid out the options. I didn't see that he had done anything wrong that I should fire him."
Hextall returned 42 days later, after both sides promised to say nothing about the renegotiations. Flyer general manager Bobby Clarke hinted, though, that a new deal was in the works. "When something happens, you'll know about it," he said after Hextall's return. Throughout, Hextall has said that he never wanted to leave Philadelphia. Still, he had convinced himself, just as he did when he went after Chelios, that a principle was involved. His direction may be open to question, but never his resolve. The correct way to play goal is to do it standing up. Hextall believes it is also the way to live one's life.
"When I'm done, I'll look in the mirror and say I gave it everything I had," he says. "If you got every ounce of talent out of yourself, then you did well."