Brett Hextall hopes to extend family's long NHL tradition

By CHUCK GORMLEY Courier-Post Staff June 23, 2008

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Former Bishop Eustace Prep School center Brett Hextall (far left), celebrating the Crusaders' Southern Conference title in 2004, was selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the sixth round (159th overall) of Saturday's NHL Draft.

(CHRIS LaCHALL/Courier-Post file)

 

When Brett Hextall was a center for Bishop Eustace Prep, his hockey coach, Mike Green, knew he wasn't simply coaching the son of an NHL star.

"He was a skilled player, but the thing you liked most was his heart and his aggressiveness," Green recalled Sunday. "He had that NHL demeanor, that edge about him back in high school."

Saturday, Brett Hextall became a fourth-generation Hextall to be taken in the NHL draft, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Bryan Sr., his great-uncles, Bryan Jr. and Dennis, and his father, Ron.

Brett Hextall, 20, was selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the sixth round (159th overall) of Saturday's draft. His father, Ron, was also taken in the sixth round when the Flyers selected him 119th overall in 1982.

Hextall, now an assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings, was on the draft floor in Ottawa when Phoenix general manager Don Maloney announced the Coyotes had selected Brett.

"It was really awkward," Hextall said. "Brett was in North Dakota working out, so it was kind of strange. I was a little shocked because five or six other teams had talked to him, and Phoenix came out of the blue."

At 5-feet-10, 176 pounds, Brett Hextall is five inches shorter than his father and may lack the speed of many of the forwards drafted ahead of him.

But his fiery competitiveness attracted the attention of Maloney, a former New York Ranger who had his share of battles with the Flyers during the 1970s and 1980s.

Maloney had seen Brett Hextall play against his son when both played in prep schools.

"He was one of those guys you just hated," Maloney told NHL.com. "He always had that Flyer mentality from the '70s; he'd spear a guy or hack a guy in the back of the leg."

Brett Hextall played two seasons at Bishop Eustace before transferring to Milton Academy, near Boston, and then to Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y.

In 54 games with Penticton of the British Columbia League last season, Hextall scored 24 goals and 48 assists and recorded 52 penalty minutes. He has committed to play at the University of North Dakota next season.

Ron Hextall described his son as a "hard-nosed kid" whose fearlessness on the ice got him to the draft table, not his last name.

"I'll be honest, I think (being a Hextall) hurt him," Ron Hextall said.

"Teams have passed over him for two years and maybe it's because I'm not the kind of person that's going to promote his own kid.

"If I touted my own kid, he probably would have been drafted before now."

Hextall said he was relieved the Flyers did not select his son, saying he would have advised them otherwise.

"I would have put an X through it," he said. "I would never want him to be in that situation, being drafted because I was part of that organization.

"I'm happy for him to get a chance without those comparisons."

Brett Hextall is expected to report to Phoenix today, where he will meet Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky for the first time.

"He's met a lot of players over the years, but never Wayne Gretzky," Ron Hextall said. "He's excited."