THE MESSAGE arrived in the inbox of Flyers season ticketholders at 6:02 a.m. yesterday.
The subject: "A message from Ron Hextall." Inside was a link to a video on the team's website - an attempt to use their house media organ to control the message delivered to fans.
Hextall, tasked with an arduous rebuild for a team that missed the Stanley Cup playoffs twice in three seasons, wanted fans to know he is not straying from the patient course he set out along last May - despite what chairman Ed Snider said in an interview in the March 25 edition of the Daily News.
The first question: "Ron, you've been steadfast all season long in your determination to be patient and steer the long course for this team and the organization. Do you fear there's been any misinterpretation as far as next year and the year after goes, as far as for what the fans should expect for the next couple years?"
"Yeah," Hextall replied. "We're staying with the course we set out from the get-go. We're going to keep our young players. We're going to keep our draft picks, for the most part. The other side of that is we're not going to lose sight of what this organization is all about, which is trying to win every day. Our goal this summer is to look around and try to get better for next year. If there's moves to make, we're going to make them. We owe it to our fans and we owe it to our organization to be the best we can every year."
Snider, 82, told Daily News columnist Sam Donnellon last month that "Ron isn't being interpreted correctly" and "we don't have to rely on kids to come in and make us a good team." He also said, "[Bleep] that," to the thought of "Hey, you've got to be patient, you might make the playoffs in 2 or 3 years."
Hextall said recently he saw Snider at a charity event the same day Snider spoke to Donnellon and Snider notified him he "said some things" in the newspaper.
Now, after Snider said Hextall "isn't being interpreted correctly," Hextall thought it was necessary to clear all that up and say he is being interpreted correctly, to quell the fears of a fan base that seemed to be on board with his different approach last summer.
If anything, yesterday's not-so-subtle message delivered confirmation of just about everything any casual observer believed about what it's like to work as a general manager under Snider: It isn't easy.
Jake Voracek, who finished fourth in the NHL in points with 81, is eligible to sign a contract extension after July 1. He said he hasn't spent much time thinking about a new deal, but thought both sides could find a fair number this summer without a need to drag it into next year . . . Restricted free-agent defenseman Michael Del Zotto reiterated a need to "be paid fairly" this summer. His negotiations should be interesting . . . Contract talks have not begun between the Flyers and Ryan White's agent . . . Former goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was spotted at Skate Zone yesterday on locker cleanout day, at the rink with his young son for hockey practice.