Most young hockey players grow up dreaming of one day skating on the ice of Madison Square Gardens. Bryan Hextall Jr. grew up learning the game in the world's most famous arena.
That is because his father, Bryan Hextall Sr., is one of the greatest New York Rangers players of all time. Like many NHL dads, Hextall brought his son down to rink where he would play pick up games with other sons once the NHLers were done on the ice.
For the most part Bryan Hextall Jr. learned the game back in Manitoba where the family returned following dad's NHL career. Jr. became a junior hockey sensation with the Brandon Wheat Kings, blending his dad's two trademarks of scoring and toughness.
The New York Rangers were naturally intrigued by bringing the second generation star into the fold, but the storybook tale did not materialize right away. After appearing in 21 scoreless games with the Rangers in 1962-63, he spent the better part of the decade toiling in the minor leagues.
It was not until 1969 when Hextall would return to the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins employed him for five seasons. He established himself as a banger, an agitator and a fighter who could slip in a few goals every season. He gradually improved from 12 goals to 16 before registering back-to-back 20 goal campaigns in 1972 and 1973.
In 1974 he began his vagabond days of clinging to NHL paychecks, toiling with Atlanta, Detroit and Minnesota, before retiring in 1976. He cherished his games in Minnesota as he had the rare opportunity to play NHL hockey with his brother, Dennis.
Bryan's career would not quite follow the legend of his father's. But his life did take a similar path. Upon retirement he, too, returned to Manitoba where he helped his son make the National Hockey League. Son Ron became one of the top goaltenders in all of hockey in the late 1980s and the 1990s.