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One to Remember

One to Remember

Stories from 39 Members of the NHL’s One Goal Club
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The first man to walk on the moon?  An easy question, no? The answer of course is Neil Armstrong. Now name the second. I bet you had to guess for a second, if you got the answer right at all. When you’re the first man or woman to accomplish a significant feat, your name will live on forever. And that brings us to Billy Smith, the first goaltender to ever score a goal in the National Hockey League, “It’s in the record books,” says the Hockey Hall of Famer. “So even with Hexxy (Ron Hextall) scoring the second one, it’s kind of forgotten. It’s always who scored the first. So in that way, the goal means something.”


Billy Smith didn’t try to score a goal against the Colorado Rockies on November 28th, 1979. His very own perfect storm came 4:50 into the third period. The Islanders were trailing the lowly Colorado Rockies 4-3. Smith didn’t even get the start that night. He took over for Chico Resch after he gave up 17 goals on 21 shots.  There was a delayed penalty call on the Islanders Mike Kaszycki. The Rockies, however, had possession of the puck. Their tender Bill McKenzie headed to the bench for an extra attacker. The puck worked its way to Rob Ramage, who let a shot go from the right side. Smith made the save. The puck quickly made its way back to Ramage in the right corner: “He grabbed it and fired the puck back to the point but there was nobody there. It went all the way down the ice and into the net.”


Right away Billy Smith knew he scored. “I knew I was the last guy to touch the puck but they gave the goal to one of my teammates.”  Smith didn’t make a big deal out of it because…frankly, it didn’t seem like much of a big deal at the time.


“It’s more of a big deal now. I mean, it was pretty neat. Back then it was like, well, we played the game, we lost, so really I wasn’t that interested.” 


After the game the goal was eventually rewarded to Smith. When you watch the video of the goal it is blatantly obvious that he was the last Islander to touch the puck. So give the NHL credit, they were quick to right their wrong. But it is kind of strange that none of Billy’s teammates picked up on the fact that the goal was his. The 7112 fans in attendance didn’t seem to notice either. And like Billy said, he didn’t really seem to care either, it’s not like he made a bee line to grab the puck.  He was the first goalie in the NHL to score a goal, but hey, no big deal. “They kept playing the game with the puck. It ended up going out of the rink. I guess the guy who got the puck ended up sending it to the Hall of Fame.”


At least one person in attendance at the McNichols Sports Arena seemed to care that history had just taken place. Over the next few seasons, Billy Smith didn’t care about scoring goals. He just cared about winning Cups. He won his first of four straight Stanley Cups with the Islanders that spring. As his playing days went on, Smith saw his position evolve. Goalies got better and better at handling the puck. He knew the day was coming. He knew another goaltender would find the back of the net: “You knew just by being in the league and how well the guys could shoot the puck (that it would happen). In my day nobody wanted the goalie to handle the puck. It was ‘Set it up at the side of the net and get out of the way, play your position and we’ll take care of the rest.’  But then you got guys like Hexxy who could really shoot the puck and it became, ‘Ok, if the puck is dumped in, we’ll hold the guys back and you grab the puck and fire it out.’”


That’s exactly what happened on December 8, 1987, in a Flyers/Bruins game. With the Boston goalie pulled, the Bruins dumped the puck into the Philly zone just to the left of Hextall. The Philly players held the Bruins’ forecheck back, Hextall picked up the puck, wristed it about 200 feet and into the empty cage. Voila. Ron Hextall joined Billy Smith as the only goalies in NHL history to score an NHL goal. Unlike when Smith scored, everyone in the arena that night, and everyone in the hockey world that night, knew Ron Hextall scored. The crowd went nuts. The Flyers bench emptied and everyone mobbed Hextall. It was a BIG deal. That just wasn’t the case for Billy Smith in 1979: “You know what? Nobody really said anything. We lost when we shouldn’t have lost. To be honest, nobody cared. Nobody ever said anything about it. It kind of rolled off our shoulders.”


For those of you wondering, Hextall is not in this book because he scored another goal, on April 11, 1989. That one came in Billy Smith’s final NHL season. Again, it was a big deal. “It was funny because when Hexxy scored the second one he got a car and I just looked at our guys. I mean, I didn’t get diddly.”


Eventually Smith did get something, but it was still pretty much diddly. But at least it came right from the president of the Islanders: “Bill Torrey bought a miniature (toy) car for me.”


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The Greatest Collection

The Greatest Collection

Legends and Lore Behind Hockey's Treasures
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