It’s not often that one switches over from one side of a storied rivalry to the other, but also not quite as uncommon as you might think. On Tuesday, free agent business man and former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender-turned-general manager signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the team’s newest GM, becoming the latest in a long-list of athletes who have dressed on both sides of professional rivalries.
A quick refresher:
MLB: Miguel Tajada suited up for both San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. Johnny Daman played for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. And even Nolan Ryan pitched for both the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.
NFL: Two of the greatest to over play the game, both Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice saw both sides of multiple rivalries. Sanders played with both Cowboys and 49ers, while also suiting up for both sides of the Cowboys and Redskins rivalry as well. While Rice played for both sides of the Seahawks and Broncos rivalry as well as that of the 49ers and Raiders rivalry. Oh yeah, Terrell Owens also played for the Philadelphia Eagles before dressing for the Dallas Cowboys.
Not to be outdone, Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans will long remember Weston Dressler as a Saskatchewan Roughrider for many seasons before he transitioned to Manitoba.
And one cannot forget Marian Hossa’s string of bad luck in swapping his way through the rosters of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, prior to finally making his mark with the Chicago Blackhawks.
But back to the story at hand…
Hextall, a Brandon, MB. product, was the highest-ranked individual on a long list of potential candidates following the sudden resignation announcement of former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford just last week.
“If you would’ve told me two years ago that I’d be sitting here as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I would’ve started laughing. But here we are,” Hextall said in his introductory ‘Zoom’ press conference. “I think Pittsburgh is a first-class organization. I’m very excited to be a part of it. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a part of my history since I was a young fellow living in Pittsburgh for five or six years, I think. Started playing hockey in Pittsburgh, ironically. I do have a tie to Pittsburgh.”
Joining Hextall in Pittsburgh is Brian Burke – a man who has certainly spent oodles of time around and within the game at the highest of levels. Most recently serving as an insider on the Sportsnet hockey panel, Burke has been involved with various NHL clubs at the GM/President level including the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames.
Hextall, 56, played 11 of his 13 NHL seasons with the Flyers, going down as one of the most aggressive goaltenders in NHL history. He is a Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner, while also becoming the first goaltender to score a goal. He served 6+ game suspensions three times and totalled 100+ penalty minutes in each of his first three seasons in the NHL.
“My philosophy has always been, we want to be as good as we can be,” Hextall said. “We also have to keep the future in mind, but we have to keep today in mind too. This situation I’m coming into now is certainly different than the one that we took over in L.A. or in Philadelphia. I’m not a one-trick pony. I’ll work with Brian to, again, become the best team we can today. If we can get better this year, we’ll try to get better.”
Following his playing career, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame member joined the Flyers as a scout, before working his was up the depth chart, until he left Philadelphia for a management gig in Los Angeles in 2006. He won a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012, before moving back to the Flyers as assistant GM and director of hockey ops. In 2014 he was named the team’s GM, and served in that role until late 2018. Once again he rebounded and went back to work for the Kings until Tuesday, where he was offered the position of GM in Pittsburgh.
“What we’re looking to do is make the Pittsburgh Penguins the best team we can this year,” Hextall said. “We’ll see where it goes. We’ll see how good we are. We’ll see how our players respond. We’ll address things as we go along.”
Pittsburgh is currently sitting at 5-5-1 and is placed fifth in the East Division, just one behind the New York Islanders, whom the Penguins just so happen to face off against on Thursday evening.
More in NHL
On Thursday the Winnipeg Jets made their first visit to the Bell Centre in...
Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and team captain Braden Schneider has signed his first career...
Tuesday marked the back half of a two-game set for the Winnipeg Jets with...
The National Hockey League set up shop in Lake Tahoe for the weekend. In...