Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said he was flattered to hear Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley say Hextall was his favorite hockey player.
Barkley began his NBA career in 1984 with the Philadelphia 76ers, and Hextall arrived with the Flyers as a rookie goaltender in 1986. They each played in Philadelphia until 1992.
"We had a bit of a relationship back in the day," Hextall said Wednesday. "He was at a lot of our games. There's a mutual respect there. I liked the way Charles played, a hard game, very emotional, gave everything he had on the court. … Certainly I'm honored to be talked about by Charles for sure."
Barkley is working for Turner Sports covering the NBA Finals, but an off-day in that series allowed him to travel to Nashville for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators on Monday.
Video: Charles Barkley on his excitement for Game 4
"I'm talking to [Jeremy Roenick], who I talk to quite a bit, he's my neighbor in Arizona, and he's like, 'Man, you've got to come to Nashville for a game,'" Barkley said Monday. "He said, 'It's the craziest thing I've ever seen.' Then I get a really nice call from Commissioner [Gary] Bettman and he says, 'Hey, for all the nice things you've been saying about hockey, come to a game.' So I said, 'Hey, I got nothing to do.'"
Barkley was born in Leeds, Alabama, and said his earliest hockey memories are of watching the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association. When he moved to Philadelphia he started rooting for the Flyers, and especially Hextall.
"I want to know if my guy really cares," Barkley said. "And if you watch Ron Hextall play, you knew he really wanted to win."
Hextall said one of his favorite memories of Barkley was attending a golf pro-am with him.
"I can't remember the pro because I played in two of them, but I do remember seeing Charles play and thinking, 'Jeez, I won't be the worst one out here today,'" he said.