Stephen Glen Rexe
Born: February 26, 1947 (Peterborough, Ontario)
Died: November 12, 2013 (Belleville, Ontario)
Steve Rexe, a goaltender, was the first player ever selected by the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1967 NHL amateur draft.
Rexe never played a game for the Penguins, or any other NHL team. Team Canada added him to the roster as a backup to Wayne Stephenson in the 1969 world championships, during which he suffered an injury. He was replaced by a young goaltender attending Cornell University by the name of Ken Dryden.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound goalie played junior hockey for his hometown team, the Peterborough Petes, before advancing to senior hockey with the Belleville (Ont.) Mohawks in 1966-67.
He was driving around town in a convertible in the summer of 1967 when he heard on the car radio he’d been drafted by the Penguins, one of six new teams joining the NHL.
“I had no idea I’d be even drafted,” he told columnist Earl McRae five years ago. “It was a different time back then. We didn’t have lawyers and agents.”
He was taken second overall behind defenceman Rick Pagnutti, who was selected by the Los Angeles Kings.
Rexe eventually received a contract offer for $7,500 with a matching bonus for signing. Instead, he was talked into playing for Team Canada by Fr. David Bauer, a Basilian priest who had launched a dedicated national team program five years earlier. Canada finished third at the Olympic tournament at Grenoble, France, in 1968 and were preparing for the world championships when the young goalie joined the program.
He saw action in an exhibition game against the Czechoslovakian national team at the Forum in Montreal on Dec. 20, 1968. The visitors won, 3-1, though Rexe stopped all shots in working the third period. Two nights later, Rexe got the win in a 7-3 rematch in Ottawa. In the new year, Rexe “made some fine saves” according to press reports against the Soviet national team in a losing effort in Victoria.
Rexe was named to the national team as a backup to Stephenson when Team Canada was announced for the world amateur championships to be played in Sweden in March, 1969. Canadian coach Jackie McLeod hoped also to use veteran goalie Seth Martin, but he suffered a knee injury.
The Nats struggled through the tournament. When Stephenson suffered a charley horse after a Swedish player fell on him, Rexe made his first appearance, surrendering two goals in a 5-1 loss.
Rexe suffered a torn thigh muscle himself when struck by a shot above his right knee in a warmup session. He was replaced in the tournament by Dryden, who would go on to have a Hockey Hall of Fame career. Rexe needed surgery, ending his tournament, as well as his time on the national team roster.
He returned to the ice to play senior hockey with the Belleville Mohawks and was named the Ontario Hockey Association’s most-valuable player in 1971-72. He then signed a contract with the Los Angeles Sharks of the World Hockey Association, a rival to the NHL, spending the 1972-73 season with the Greensboro (N.C.) Generals of the rough Eastern Hockey League.
Two seasons with the Springfield (Mass.) Kings ended with Rexe and his teammates winning the Calder Cup as American Hockey League champions in 1975.
Rexe’s netminding duties concluded with stints with such Ontario senior teams as the Napanee Comets, Lindsay Lancers and Thunder Bay twins. He also played six games for the Binghamton (N.Y.) Dusters of the North American Hockey League.
He then became a goaltending coach and owned and coached the Whitby Lawmen, an Ontario Hockey League Tier II team. He later owned and operated a hockey camp for girls and women in Belleville, Ont.