Today is the anniversary of one of those interesting sports footnotes that were truly unique and deserve to be remembered. It was 23 years ago that Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ron Hextall did something that had never previously been accomplished in an NHL game.
When you watch the replay, it doesn’t seem all that difficult a feat to accomplish, but before Hextall whipped a shot the length of the ice into an empty net on December 8, 1987, no goalie had ever actually scored in an NHL game.
The accomplishment came at the end of a contest against the Boston Bruins. With Philadelphia leading 4-2, the Bruins pulled their keeper, Rejean Lemelin, to add another offensive player. After Hextall picked up a loose puck near his goal, Hextall whipped it the length of the ice and it easily nestled into the net.
Hextall would repeat the accomplishment on April 11, 1989 in a playoff game against the Washington Capitals to become the first goalie to score in a playoff game.
Interestingly, Hextall was not the first goalie credited with a goal. Because of hockey’s score keeping rule that credits a goal to the last offensive player to touch the puck, on November 28, 1979, Billy Smith of the New York Islanders was the first NHL goalie to be credited with a goal even though he didn’t actually shoot the puck into the net. Smith was awarded the goal during a game against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies’ goaltender left the ice for an extra skater after a delayed penalty was called on the Islanders. During the ensuing play, Smith made a save, then a Rockies player passed the puck to a vacant point, and it traveled the length of the ice into the empty net.
There have been a total of 11 goals credited to goalies in NHL history with six of them resulting directly from a goalie shooting the puck into the net. Following the two goals by Hextall, the next to accomplish the feat was Chris Osgood in 1996. Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore and Evgeni Nabokov are the others with Nabokov being the last to do so in 2002.
Below is a look at Hextall’s historic goal.