Monday

Bobby Hull - The Golden Jet

Long before he joined the NHL, Bobby Hull was labeled a sure-fire NHL player. And he didn't disappoint anyone.

Although he didn't invent the slap shot, his uncanny accuracy and amazing power popularized the shot to this day. Goalies would cower when he wound up. Hull led the league in goal scoring in seven seasons. He scored an amazing 610 regular season goals, and over 300 more with the WHA's Jets. He was the first player to record more than 50 goals in one season (54); won the Art Ross Trophy three times, the Hart Trophy twice, the Lady Byng once, and the Lester Patrick Trophy once; Bobby also dominated all-star selections, being named to 10 first all-star teams, and 2 second teams. No wonder why Bobby is considered by many to be the best left winger in the history of the game.

Hull helped bring a Stanley Cup to Chicago, in 1961, as the Black Hawks beat the Detroit Red Wings four games to two. Hull, in his first Stanley Cup Finals, scored two goals in Game One, including the game-winner. The Black Hawks went to the finals twice more, losing in 1962 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and in 1965 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Hull represents a link to another era, when pro sports weren't such big businesses, when the innocence of the sport fostered unabashed adoration of idols. Hull, the charismatic, goal-scoring goodwill ambassador who throughout the 1960's simply was the Chicago Blackhawks, takes us back to another day, when it was so much easier to be young at heart.

"We played just for the sheer enjoyment. We made a boyhood dream come true to play in the NHL," he said. "That's all we wanted to do, to stay there, play the game and enjoy it. Hopefully, the fans enjoyed it.

"We had to make our own fun," Hull recalled. "We stayed together. We went out after games together. On the road, we went out after games together. By the time game-time came around, we didn't have to get to know one another. We spent so much time together we were one unit."

His blonde good looks and sparkling charisma combined with his on ice speed and swagger earned him the nickname "The Golden Jet." Oddly enough, Hull would become a Jet when he signed with Winnipeg of the WHA. Hull became hockey's first millionaire, and the WHA gained instant credibility. The NHL was left shocked as one of their elite attractions walked away to play for another league. Ironically hockey's era of innocence which Hull still represents suffered a severe wake up call.

In Winnipeg he starred for years with Swedish stars Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson. The NHL was furious with his WHA signing and tried legal action to block the move, and then punished Hull by leaving him off of the 1972 Summit Series Team Canada squad. And ironically, it was Winnipeg that opened up the wallets and started handing out big contracts in an effort to lure some of the games top players. Ironic because Winnipeg would lose the NHL version of the Jets in 1996 because they couldn't compete economically.

When the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979, Hull ended up with the Hartford Whalers, where he played one final season. In 1981 Hull, who scored 303 goals in the WHA, attended the New York Rangers training camp as a 42 year old. The Rangers also had Hedberg and Nilsson and were looking to recapture some WHA magic, but it was not meant to be.

Hull was hockey's faster skater (28.3 mph with puck, 29.7 without it) and had the hardest shot (once reportedly recorded at 118.3 mph, some 35 mph above the league average). He was hockey's ultimate hockey player, blending together the talents of his most famed predecessors - the speed of Howie Morenz, the goal scoring prowress of Maurice Richard, the strength and control of Gordie Howe - plus the looks and charisma of a movie star. Hull did more than any other player to popularize the game of hockey in the United States prior to Wayne Gretzky.

Stan Mikita, Hull's long time teammate once was quoted as saying "To say that Bobby is a great hockey player is to labor the point. He was all of that of course. But the thing I admired about him was the way he handled people. He always enjoyed signing autographs for fans and was a genuine nice guy."

Bobby Hull was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1983. One day Bobby's son Brett will join him in the Hall. Brett was Bobby's equivalent during the late 1980's and 1990s, though was overshadowed by Wayne Gretzky.

21 comments:

Anonymous,  11:27 AM  

i watched him for years in chicago his speed and strength always amazed me i later saw him on a superstar competition he was rowing a boat and you could have waterski'd behind it and he still would have beat the competition i had never seen him without a uniform on his upper body muscle was unreal

tomb 8:29 AM  

Hull was a Chicago icon. Still remember them having to hold up the team bus to wait for him to sign all the autographs. Teammates didn't complain though. The Jet was their meal ticket.

kelo,  7:32 PM  

I agree with everything read here and more. A true superstar and could he fly. I don't know but nobody has shot any harder since either. Too bad Hockey Canada NHL wouldn't allow him in the Summit Series. Can u imagine the additions of two more Bobby's. Orr and Hull.

Anonymous,  4:18 PM  

Bobby Hull was and is still, the greatest left wing in the history of ice hockey period! I don't care where you look NHL or otherwise, you will not find anyone who played left wing better than Robert Marvin Hull "The Golden Jet"! It's true, his physique was incredible! To see Bobby with out his shirt (the result of 100lb bales of hay he threw around on is dad's farm) took your breath away. You could not believe his build. I used to wait for him after the games and it's true he would sign all night! His charm and charisma with the fans was something to experience! One of the most dynamic players EVER to play the game. All the Best Bobby.....Greg G.

Anonymous,  10:41 PM  

The greatest physical talent in the history of hockey. No one elese who has ever played had the combination of strength,speed skill and cannon shot that Bobby Hull had.
Bobby hull also had more finese around the net and was a more complete player than most of the modern fans are aware of.

Greg G 3:25 PM  

I would like to add one more comment on the "Golden Jet". He was selected #8 on the Hockey News list of greatest players and I disagree with that! Bobby is in the top 5 players ever! the "Rocket" was a great player and so was Doug Harvey and Beliveau but out of those three only the "Rocket" could take over a game. Bobby Hull could take over a game by himself! Pick up the puck behind his own net skate the length of the ice and let one of those patented slappers go at the blue line and beat the goalie! My top 5: Howe, Gretzky, Orr, Lemuiex, and Hull....Greg G

Tadd 7:43 AM  

The Golden Jet will forever be remembered as a forefather for the NHL. There is no way he couldn't compete (and beat) many of the hockey players of our generation. I can't wait to meet him this fall at the Sports Legends Challenge, hopefully with his assistance I can correctly learn how to nail that slapshot!

DJ,  8:43 AM  

Bobby Hull is amazing in my eyes and his skills on the ice was something that I still can't fathom to this day. I would be amazed to see him compete in this poker tournament in the Bahamas this September where i'm sure he will dominate.

Anonymous,  8:48 AM  

consider - goal tending being equal, put the same player at all 5 positions & the only line up that could beat a Hull team would be an Orr team (maybe) mostly due to defensive skill* J.E.

Anonymous,  9:08 AM  

I once won a bushell of apples from Bobby's parents house in Ontario way back when. It was very exciting

Albert 7:40 AM  

I almost never missed one of his games at Detroit''s Olympia and yes I can attest to the autograph signing comments. The weekly Hockey Night in Canada telecasts made me a fan.

OldRobFromNJ,  10:12 AM  

A testimonial to Bobby Hull's slap shot . . . for those of us old enough to remember when goalies were just beginning to wear masks, Minnesota North Stars goalie Cesare Maniago initially wore one only against Chicago.

ringo712 9:20 PM  

Bobby came to our grade school in 67, Santa Maria Adolorrata in chicago. He had these gigantic wrists.Along with Dick The Bruiser as my mommas favorites. Bobby #1

Anonymous,  10:39 AM  

In "67 he came to Santa Maria Addoloratta grade school with Ernie Banks & Gail Sayers. My aunt working the lunch room at the time kissed Bobby and was a fan from then on!

Kevin Girard,  6:19 PM  

I'm not sure if Bobby or Brett ever read this blog but I have something that belongs to your family. I have a victoriaville stick obtained around 1971 when I first became a fan of hockey. The stick has a Very illegal curve, maybe 3 1/2 inches or more. The red/ white/ and black stripes have long since worn and faded away. The heel has been filed down , I assume by you. I kept it all these years as a novalty item ( most people can't beleive the curve was ever legal) it sits in my garage and I think it should be properly displayed so if you want it back I would be happy to give it to you. I do not feel right to sell something that was yours to begin with. If you want it back let me know...Kevin Girard kgirard3@yahoo.com

Tom Cherne 2:33 PM  

Imagine how fast Bobby Hull would skate with the lightweight skates of today. With the old heavy skates he was timed at 29.7 miles per hour without the puck and 28.3 mph with it on his stick.
With the weight rooms teams have today, the Golden Jet would be 205 pounds of muscle instead of 195 he was.
His shot would be over 125 mph! As it was he was the strongest,fastest and hardest shooting player ever.

Anonymous,  10:33 PM  

Bobby Hull was the most dangerous goal scorer ever--because of his awesome end to end rushes and tremendous 120mph slap shot which he would often release behind the blue line.
He was the most exciting player ever for the same two reasons. He was so strong he carried defenders on his back as he rushed the goal and could get his shot of while opposing players were holing both his arms. Bobby Hull was one of a kind.

Anonymous,  1:40 PM  

Was my childhood idol. Last November I had the serendipidous moment of a lifetime. By sheer fluke I just happened to be in the exact right place at the exact right time. I got to meet him. I just happened to have Black Hawk Stanley cup paraphenalia and a camera. He willingly autographed the banner and had my picture taken with him.

Norm Kinzel,  6:12 PM  

Bobby actually played in Hespler for a while and lived in Preston My uncle was the coach of the time and another played on the same line He lived with another uncle on my dads side in Preston and for the longest time would send him Christmas cards No one ever had a negative think to say about him

Anonymous,  7:10 PM  

last christmas I took my 5 & 3 y/o daughters to see santa, there was no line and we were done in no time, while walking through the mall to get home I spotted a line outside of a sports aparel store. the jet was signing autographs...after an hour in line with two restless little misses, bobby took them both in his lap kissed there hands like a gentleman & signed <Y picture
'to eileen & kelly, Love uncle Bobby" priceless

Unknown 3:28 PM  

I just finished a book titled "The Devil and Bobby Hull" by Gare Joyce. Pitched as "How Hockey's Original Million-Dollar-Man Became the Game's Lost Legend", the book is a disappointment because the author failed to provide any respectable amount of original research. It seems that it was rushed into print and was in dire need of another 6 to 12 months of work. There's not much to learn here for us true fans of the Golden Jet, except for the more sordid allegations about Bobby's personal life and especially his divorce from Joanne Hull. The writer actually relies heavily on old YouTube videos and the rehashing of well established story lines - not more than a person could find out on his own. The book only scratches the surface on one of the most significant angles in the Bobby Hull story: the nefarious Wirtz ownership and how they sought to destroy Bobby Hull. Old William Wirtz and his spoiled punk of a playboy son, Bill Wirtz, stopped at nothing in the 1960's and 70's to maintain the owner's oligarchy and status quo of exploiting the players. Bobby Hull was ten times the man those people were and his battle against their control changed hockey forever. As teammate Stan Mikita said "the day Bobby Hull signed for a million dollars with the WHA, I genuflected towards Winnipeg. My salary doubled the following year." Every single established player in the NHL of 1972 owed Bobby Hull an enormous debt of gratitude, let alone the multi-million dollar stars who followed in later years. Who knows how much longer the owners - the Wirtzes being the worst - would have continued to get away with their antics had not Bobby Hull showed the courage that he did. Don't think it was all that easy for him to walk away from Chicago, even for all that money. Hull knew he'd pay a huge price for his forceful show of independence. Being purposefully left off the Team Canada roster in '72 was just the beginning of it. Bobby Hull did in fact become hockey's lost legend. Too bad Joyce's book misses the mark so badly in telling Hull's real story. A postscript: We can only wish that the subject of the Golden Jet were put into the hands of a better writer and researcher. If we only had sports journalist and author Stephen Brunt on the job, for example. Please see what may be the best hockey book ever written, Brunt's "Searching for Bobby Orr".

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