Twenty years ago today on November 10, 1996 we witnessed perhaps the most entertaining goalie fight in Maple Leafs history, as Felix Potvin dropped the gloves with Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The fight happened at the end of a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia. Flyers forward Daniel Lacroix skated in front of Potvin, who proceeded to give him a slash on the legs. Wendel Clark quickly stepped in to defend his goaltender, giving Lacroix a beatdown.
That might have been the end of things if Ron Hextall – the most notorious bad boy goalie in NHL history – wasn’t standing at the other end of the ice.
Hextall bolted for Potvin immediately to even the score.
“I never talked to him before,” Potvin said in an interview with the Toronto Star in 2013. “He probably wanted to be part of it. I had no choice.”
Hextall was 32 years-old at the time – past his prime – but certainly more than capable of defending himself. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound goalie from Brandon, Manitoba had 584 career penalty minutes in the NHL, which included three straight seasons of over 100 PIMs. To put that in perspective, that’s more than any player on the Leafs had last season.
The fight was the fifth – and last – of Hextall’s career. For Potvin, meanwhile, it was his first. He had just one more fight in the NHL, against Jani Hurme of the Ottawa Senators in 2001.
“I remember looking up and seeing him coming down the ice,” Potvin, who was 25 at the time, recalled. “I was trying to get my gloves off in time. I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
It turned out that Potvin, who was smaller than Hextall at 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds, did pretty good! Felix was able to get Hextall’s jersey over his head and landed a few good punches in what is one of the classic goalie fights of all-time.