December 11, 2022

Dennis Hextall

Dennis Hextall was the third member in a family that has produced four NHL players spanning three generations. Dennis and his brother Bryan Jr. played during in the 60's and 70's making reasonably big names for themselves. Father Bryan Sr. played with the New York Rangers for 11 seasons (1936-48) earning the Stanley Cup with the Broadway Blues in the 1939-40 season. The fourth and final member of the Hextall NHL clan is Bryan's son Ron Hextall, goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dennis grew up in Manitoba and played his way through the youth leagues before moving on to play junior hockey for the Brandon Wheat Kings. In his final season with Brandon, Hextall fell just one point shy of winning the scoring title. In the playoffs that year he scored 19 goals in 19 games.

From junior, Hextall was offered a college scholarship from four U.S. colleges and selected the University of North Dakota partially due to it's close location to his home.

In his three year's in college, the UND team won their league one year, placed second in another and made it to the NCAA tournament yet another. Following his final college season, Hextall made a jump that only one other college player had done before him - he signed a NHL contract with the Rangers. The only player to have made it to the NHL through the U.S. college avenue prior was Red Berenson who played for the University of Michigan.

Hextall played a few years in the Rangers' system (mostly playing minor pro) before he was sent bouncing around the league. Feeling more like a human pinball than a hockey player, Dennis went from New York to Montreal to Los Angeles to Oakland and finally ended up in Minnesota where his career began to take shape.

The summer following his scoring 2 goals and 31 assists for the Golden Seals in Oakland, Hextall was sent to Minnesota in a trade that saw Walt McKechnie and Joey Johnston head west. His first year with the North Stars, Hextall tore up his knee and didn't play much. Then things started clicking.

The next year, Dennis led the team in scoring from start to finish (30G-52A) and the Stars finished in second place. Hextall remained with the Stars for over four seasons and scored 84 goals and 196 assists in 330 games played.

Just when the Stars began their downturn, Hextall was sent to the Detroit Red Wings in 1976 for Bill Hogaboam and a second round draft pick. Hextall remained with the Red Wings the 78-79. During that season, Dennis was sent to the Washington Capitals before retiring from the game the next season and moving back to the Detroit area.

The only thing in his career that Hextall regrets is not winning the Stanley Cup. Coming into the game during the expansion time, like many of the game's players of that era, Hextall was bounced around between mediocre teams and never had a real chance at winning the NHL's Holy Grail.

While he was offered several coaching and front office management positions following his retirement, Hextall decided against it. One such offer was from the Red Wings as they were in the process of firing Wayne Maxner. With the team's turmoil under owner Bruce Norris' reign, Hextall decided it wasn't in his best interest.

The following year, Fred Shero contacted Dennis about the Rangers bench boss position. The offer was a three-year contract to be GM and coach of their AHL affiliate New Haven for two years then moving up to the parent club. Hextall once again declined.

Over his 13 seasons in the NHL, Hextall played in 681 games, scoring 153 goals and adding 350 assists with 1398 penalty minutes.

Today, Hextall remains a member for the Detroit community where he continues to play charity games with the Red Wings Alumni.

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