Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Ron Hextall Autographed Card

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I have to admit I was pretty shocked when the Philadelphia Flyers fired GM and former star goalie Ron Hextall in November 2018, even more so when they replaced him with former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. I was sad that neither Hextall nor Sean Burke had been considered as GM of the Seattle Kraken, as both, to me, seem to have the credentials needed to build a team and make trades with fellow GMs that could be mutually beneficial.

I was intrigued but not as surprised when Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford resigned early this season, not so much because of his age (he did admit he was willing to listen to offers to get back in the game elsewhere) but mostly because people in his position are rarely willing to let go and relinquish a position so closely removed from back-to-back championships despite the clear signs of a regression. In Rutherford's case, he churned out talent such as not one but two #1 goalies in Marc-André Fleury and Matt Murray, as well as championship veterans Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta, Ron Hainsey, and Ian Cole, and acquired veteras Tanner Pearson, Erik Gudbranson, Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Bjugstad, Jamie Oleksiak, Joseph Blandisi, and Ryan Reaves. Two of them - Kessel and Murray - had delivered Conn Smythe-worthy performances under his reign. I guess he had a knack for not gettting too attached, although he did keep core veterans Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on board despite increasing rumours to the contrary.

It was a complete shocker, however, when Hextall was annointed to replace Rutherford in Pittsburgh - Philadelphia's main rival - until I remembered his father, Bryan Hextall Jr., had played for the team in the early 1970s, with the likes of Syl Apps and Jean Pronovost, during a relatively bleak period of the team's history.

It will fall on Hextall's shoulders to decide whether a full (three-to-five-year) rebuild is in the cards, or if a simple two-year retool might do the trick. One thing's for sure, he built the current-day Flyers and the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings mostly from the ground up with a couple of savvy trades (including trading away Brayden Schenn twice) thrown in for good measure. This is perhaps this core's last chance at bringing a fourth Cup home before it gets separated.

Despite his also suiting up for my favourite team - the Québec Nordiques - and the New York Islanders, when I think "Hextall", I think "Vezina", "Conn Smythe", and "Flyers", with the arrow mask, as seen on card #41 from O-Pee-Chee's 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier set:
Although I had a few dozen copies of that card in my youth, I actually bought this signed copy on Ebay under $10; I doubt any future versions for sale online will be below $25. I'm particularly fond of the "All the best" mention prior to his signature, such warmth and class to take the time to add a polite and encouraging message, light years away from the fierce temperament he displayed on the ice and that inspired my own play and demeanor, which was modeled on him, Patrick Roy and Burke.

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