Today is the 74th birthday of one Robert Marvin “Bobby” Hull, formerly of the Chicago Black Hawks, Winnipeg Jets (the WHA version) and the Hartford Whalers. You can’t talk about hockey without mentioning him and what he’s done for the sport.
The pride of Pointe Anne, Ontario came to the NHL with the Black Hawks in 1957 and was already a sensation by the time the team won the Stanley Cup four years later. He and his partner in crime, Stan Mikita, were the guys who started the whole idea of curving their blades, and his slap shot was a dangerous thing back then because of it (it was once clocked at 118.3 miles per hour, more than Zdeno Chara’s best). He’s also the first to score more than 50 goals in a season, doing so in 1966. By the time he left the NHL, he’d reached that mark five times.
But Hull was unhappy with how little he was paid in the NHL and went over to the WHA and the old Winnipeg Jets. How it happened took a lot of, shall we say, chutzpah: when the WHA began to court him in 1972, he bragged that he’d play for them for the sum of one million dollars. It took the other owners to chip in, but the Jets signed him to a player/coach contract that would pay him that much over ten years. It cost him a spot on the Canadian team during the 1972 Summit Series, but he became their biggest player and helped the Jets win two AVCO Cups.
Alas, age and injury took their toll, and he played a few games with the Jets before they merged with the NHL in 1979. After the merger, Hull played with them for a little while before being traded to the Hartford Whalers. He played nine games with them before he finally retired. Actually, he tried to make a comeback with the New York Rangers in 1981, but after five exhibition games he hung up the skates for the last time.
After Rocky Wirtz took over as owner, the Blackhawks reached out to some of their past players and appointed them team ambassadors. Hull was given this honor, along with Mikita, Denis Savard and Tony Esposito. Last season, he and Mikita were honored with giant bronze statues outside United Center.
You know his hockey genes were passed on to his son Brett, who’s followed in his dad’s footsteps of greatness. When Brett Hull briefly played for the Phoenix Coyotes, they took Bobby’s number out of retirement so he could wear it. Speaking of the old #9, when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Evander Kane asked for Bobby’s permission and blessing to wear it as part of the new Winnipeg Jets.
Happy birthday, Bobby. May you impart your wisdom on future hockey players for years to come.