Leah Hextall is a Canadian sports journalist and ice hockey play-by-play broadcaster who has made history as the first woman to call play-by-play for a nationally televised NHL game and the first woman to join the NHL on ESPN broadcast team. But who is the man behind her success and passion for sports? In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of Leah Hextall father, Randy Hextall, who was a former hockey player and a supportive dad.
Randy Hextall: A Hockey Player and a Family Man
Randy Hextall was born in 1955 and grew up in a hockey family. His father, Bryan Hextall Sr., was a Hall of Fame winger who played 11 seasons in the NHL and won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1940. His brothers, Bryan Jr. and Dennis, also played in the NHL as center and left wing, respectively. Randy’s cousin, Ron Hextall, was a star goaltender who won the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1987.
Randy followed his family’s footsteps and played hockey as a center for the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in the early 1970s. He was drafted by the Atlanta Flames in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, but he never made it to the NHL. He later played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League.
Randy married Elizabeth Hextall, a former nurse, and they had two daughters, Leah and Hex. Randy was a devoted father who taught his daughters how to ride a bike, throw a ball, drive a stick shift, and deliver a proper handshake. He also instilled in them a love for hockey and sports in general. He encouraged Leah to pursue her dream of becoming a sports journalist and supported her throughout her career.
Leah Hextall: A Trailblazer and a History Maker
Leah Hextall was born in 1980 in Brandon, Manitoba, and graduated from the Columbia Academy of Radio, Television and Recording Arts in Vancouver in 2003. She started her career as a sports reporter and anchor for CTV Winnipeg from 2005 to 2012, and then moved to Boston to work for the New England Sports Network (NESN) as the host of NESN Sports Today from 2012 to 2014.
In 2014, she joined Sportsnet as the studio host for regional Calgary Flames game broadcasts. After being let go in 2016, she decided to expand her skill set and pursue play-by-play announcing, a field that was dominated by men. She was inspired by legendary NHL broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick and former Hockey Night in Canada analyst Cassie Campbell-Pascall, who both mentored her and gave her valuable advice.
She made her television debut as a play-by-play announcer for a four-game set of Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) games in January 2018. She returned to the role for the CWHL in January 2019, and also became the first woman to call an NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship game for ESPN in March 2019. In March 2020, she made history as the first woman to call play-by-play for a nationally televised NHL game as part of Sportsnet’s first all-female broadcast team. In May 2021, she was hired by ESPN to join the NHL on ESPN broadcast team as a play-by-play announcer and a rinkside reporter, becoming the first woman to hold such a role as part of a national TV broadcast.
Leah Hextall is also known for her weekly segment called “Hextall on Hockey”, which airs on the AM radio station 680 CJOB in Winnipeg and is rebroadcast by several stations across Canada. In the segment, she covers various topics related to hockey, including the Winnipeg Jets, sexism, and social justice issues.
Randy Hextall: A Proud and Loving Dad
Randy Hextall passed away in 2019 at the age of 63, but his memory and influence live on in his daughter Leah. Leah often shares photos and stories of her dad on her social media accounts, expressing her gratitude and love for him. She credits him for being her biggest fan and her inspiration.
On Father’s Day in 2019, she posted a childhood photo of her dad and wrote: “I’m pretty lucky this guy grew up to be my DAD! Happy #FathersDay Randy!” On his birthday in 2021, she posted another photo of her with her dad and wrote: “Today would be 68… Happy Birthday Dad. We miss you.”
Leah Hextall father was a man who loved hockey and his family. He was a man who encouraged his daughter to follow her passion and break barriers. He was a man who left a lasting legacy in the sports world and in his daughter’s heart. He was a man who deserves to be remembered and celebrated.