Ron Hextall called Wednesday the culmination of a 15-year dream.
Hextall on Wednesday was promoted to general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, replacing Paul Holmgren, who was named president of the team in a sweeping change to the front office.
After playing 11 of 13 NHL seasons with the Flyers, Hextall moved into a scouting role with the organization after he retired in 1999. He returned to Flyers in the summer of 2013 as assistant general manager and director of hockey operations after seven seasons as assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Kings.
"When [chairman Ed] Snider brought me in and talked about offering me this job, not only did I reach my goal of being a general manager, I got my dream job," Hextall said during a press conference at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. "I'm thrilled to be sitting here and I'll do the best job I can do. I'll work hard toward reaching the ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia."
Hextall will have the final say in all matters related to the hockey team, but said he would be "an idiot" not to use Holmgren as a sounding board.
"He'll be somebody I talk to, bounce ideas off of," Hextall said. "No different than talking to our professional scouts or amateur scouts about pros or amateurs. Absolutely I'll bounce ideas off [Holmgren]."
Holmgren knows Hextall is more than capable of doing the job. That's why he said he went to Snider in January with this exact scenario.
"It's all about strengthening the organization," Holmgren said. "You listen to Ron and you don't have to sit here that long to realize what a sharp guy he is and how he carries himself and how he cares about the organization. He's a smart guy."
Holmgren's new role will put him in charge of hockey and business operations. The position had been vacant since Peter Luukko resigned in December 2013.
"I approached [Snider] about my idea about what I believe to be a stronger management team with a way of I guess moving up for myself into more of a management position of the hockey team and sliding Ron into the GM position," Holmgren said. "There are many ways we can improve as a team from the business side. … There are many ways we can improve as a team from the business side. I can work closely with Dave Scott [Comcast-Spectacor chief financial officer] and Shawn Tilger [Flyers chief operating officer], as well as Mr. Snider, and try to help improve what we're doing and help Ron with what he's doing in the transition."
Holmgren had been general manager since replacing Bob Clarke on Oct. 22, 2006. He inherited a team that finished 30th in the League standings in 2006-07 but recovered to advance to the 2008 Eastern Conference Final.
In Holmgren's seven full seasons as GM, the Flyers went to the playoffs six times, including a trip to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
Snider called Holmgren's run outstanding.
"I think back to when Paul took the job," Snider said. "The very next season … the moves he made, we were back in contention. I'm really very happy, and that's why I was happy to promote Paul to the position he's taking now and I'm thrilled Ron is going to take over."
Hextall worked as a professional scout and director of pro player personnel with Philadelphia before moving to Los Angeles, where he worked under Kings GM Dean Lombardi and helped build the team that won the 2012 Stanley Cup. He said what he learned working for Clarke and Holmgren in Philadelphia and Lombardi in Los Angeles was that the best way to build a team is through the draft and player development.
"I like young players and I like draft picks," Hextall said. "I think my vision is to build this team and continue to make this team better through the draft. Doesn't mean we won't make trades. At some point if it's a good enough player and we have to trade a young player, we may look at this. … We have to continue to keep our picks and make good picks. The other part is development. We're going to strengthen that part of it and hopefully develop a lot of players. It's important in a cap world to develop players. We're going to try to build from within and keep the pieces we draft and make them real good players."
Snider endorsed the move because of his belief in Hextall's ability to do the job.
"Ron is one of the League's bright young stars on the management side and we're very fortunate to have him," Snider said. "He's had success in Los Angeles and will now put that experience to work for us as general manager. We all remember the enthusiasm, work ethic and personality he had as a player, and we’re excited to watch him bring those qualities to building a team that will contend for the Stanley Cup."