Saturday

Dennis Hull

Want to to talk some hockey and have a good laugh all at the same time? Talk to Dennis Hull.

A fine player in his own right, Dennis was always overshadowed by his older brother Bobby, and years later by his nephew Brett. But since his playing days Dennis has carved out a tremendous career as a celebrity spokesman. With his families natural charism and humour and his large collection of stories to tell, Dennis has become quite the entertainer.

Here's just a sample of some of his quotes -

"If you make it to the NHL, most players are able to say hat they are the best hockey player in their family. But I wasn't even the second best in my family!" Dennis said when nephew Brett was in his prime.

"He said Sittler!" Dennis joked when Russian newspaper reports wrongly alleged brother Bobby made pro-Adolph Hitler comments.

"Every game I played against Henri Richard, he'd come up to behind me at some point and say, 'My brother's better than your brother.' " Like Hull, Henri was a fine player overshadowed by his brother, Maurice.

"My brother and I scored more than anyone in hockey history" joked Dennis about their womanizing ways in a less than politically correct era.

Like his brother Bobby, Dennis was known for his hard slap shot. He compared the two shots once - "Someone once said that Bobby could hit a puck through a car wash and not get it wet and that I could hit it just as hard, but not hit the car wash. That was the difference."

Someone asked him if he wished he played in today's era - "I would sure like to be there now on the 15th and 30th, when they get paid."

Along the same lines he told this story a few time. "Brett asked me: "Uncle Dennis, what would you have done if you had made $5 million a year?' And I said, 'I would have quit by Christmas.'"

Dennis Hull: always the comedian.

But lets learn more about Dennis Hull the hockey player.

Dennis was solidly built just like his brother was. Strength was the forte of the Hulls, all 11 of them. They were born and grew up in a farming community of about 500 in Point Anne, Ontario. Dennis and Bobby Jr. worked in the fields, storing hay and chopping down trees in the woods that surrounded the farm. This developed tremendous back muscles and forearms on both brothers.

The head of the family, Bobby Hull Sr. also loved to play hockey. He played junior, intermediate and senior hockey out of Point Anne (near Belleville). Bobby Sr. had seven daughters and four sons, two of them, Dennis and Bobby Jr. were on skates when they were just able to walk. Bobby Sr. claimed that Gary, another son might have been the best hockey player in the family if he had pursued a hockey career.

Dennis and Bobby learned to skate at the Bay of Quint. Dennis possessed many similar traits that his brother Bobby did - particularly his hard shot and good speed. He wasn't nearly as colorful as Bobby, but he was a valuable player for Chicago.

Dennis played four seasons with the St.Catherines of the OHA Jr.A and at age 19 he scored 48 goals, a number that even Bobby couldn't match in Junior A. Bobby had 33 goals as a 18-year old.

During Dennis NHL rookie season in 1964 he had one year left of Junior A eligibility. Chicago tried to farm him out for additional seasoning but had to cancel their plans when Toronto and Boston threatened to grab him on waivers. So instead Dennis spent most of his NHL rookie season on the bench.

Playing on the MPH line with Pit Martin and Jim Pappin for most of 8 seasons, the Hawks were a team to be reckoned with.

Dennis really stepped up his play in the post season.

"I really enjoyed playing in the playoffs," he said. "It is what I loved to do."

Obviously! In 97 post season games, Dennis scored 33 goals and 67 assists for Chicago. But he and his teammates were unable to bring a Stanley Cup to the Windy City. He attributes the city's Stanley Cup drought to the wooing of NHL stars by the World Hockey Association including his brother Bobby.

Chicago was on the verge of big things in the early part of the 1970s. The Hawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1971, but fell to the Canadiens in seven hard-fought games. Dennis was the star of that playoffs.

"In 1971, the press decided to vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy just prior to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final. It was secretly decided that if Chicago had won, I would get the award because I led the league in playoff points. If Montreal won, Ken Dryden would get it. We lost the game - and I lost the Conn Smythe - in the third period."

Of course every good Hull story has a good joke to go with it.

"The winner of the Conn Smythe also received a new car. During the warm up of an exhibition game against Montreal early the next season, Yvan Cournoyer called me to center ice. He said, "I have a message from Ken Dryden. He says your car is running really good!"

Two years later they once again ran into Montreal in the Cup finals, this time without Bobby Hull and Pat Stapleton in the line-up as both had signed with the WHA.

"So the WHA cost us a lot, besides the money, it cost us two Stanley Cups because we were so close." feels Dennis.

Without a Stanley Cup ring to cherish, Dennis fondly calls the 1972 Summit Series as his career highlight.

"Not winning the Cup was disappointing, but the saving grace for me was playing for Team Canada in 1972. After the final game in Moscow, we came storming into the dressing room on an unbelievable high. I was sitting next to Yvan Cournoyer, and I asked him if this was like winning the Stanley Cup. He replied 'No, this is ten times better!' I still think to myself that I've won only one less Stanley Cup than Henri Richard (11 time Stanley Cup champion)."

Dennis Hull - always the comedian.

Dennis played 14 seasons in Chicago before playing one final NHL season in Detroit in 1977-78.

"Once Chicago let Billy Reay go - the most instrumental person in my life and my only NHL coach - I lost all my desire to play. I was 19 when I arrived in Chicago in 1964 and Billy taught me everything an adult needs to know about how to treat people properly, not just how to play hockey."

To Dennis it didn't matter if it was a free wheeling game or a close-checking one, he always played his game. He was an honest hockey player. He went up and down the ice and did his job. He gave you the same game every time.

Dennis retired with approximately half as many goals as brother Bobby got. But 303 goals are still an impressive amount, with 351 assists for 654 points. He was overshadowed and underappreciated by fans and media, but not by those who got to know him.

6 comments:

Anonymous,  11:43 PM  

Dennis, Never say Never.

Thanks for the great golf tourney!

Your Fan for Life.

Ahmed

Anonymous,  8:04 PM  

Dennis,

I went into my son's closet yesterday and pulled out a CCH stick that you signed for me back in the 70's at a bank event on the southwest side of Chicago. I had that stick next to me last night when the 'Hawks won it all!

Dan

Anonymous,  11:50 AM  

dennis you fliped a puck over the glass in franklin park ice area I GOT THAT PUCK I VALUED IT ENOUGH TO PLAY ONLY TO LOOSE MY OLDER BROTHER WHO WAS HOCKEY TEACHER ,SAID PULL IT OUT ITS WORTH MORE TODAY TO BAD I DONT HAVE IT BUT IF YOU GAVE ME ONE I,D CHERRISH IT FOREVER BY FAR YOUR FAMILY IS THE GREATEST OF ALL HOCKEY FAMILY'S THANKS FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TELL BOBBY HI AND GOD BLESS I AM THANKFUL WE WON IT HEY DENNIS IF YOU HAVE ANOTHER PUCK THAT WOULD BE GREAT JOHN MCCARTHY 3840 E ASHLAN AVE APT B FRESNO CA 93726 GOD BLESS YOU& FAMILY GO HAWKS THANK YOU OLDER BROTHER JIM FOR TEACHING ME HOCKEY&TELLING ME ABOUT THE GREATEST OF ALL DENNIS&BOBY HULL

Jim 12:08 PM  

Well, Mr. Hull,
We enjoyed you as a player, and after reading your book, I see you have other skills to rely on now.

My brother told me about this site, and he had commented earlier, but I would elaborate a bit.

While the Hawks were practicing at the Franklin Park arena, you saw my little brother there.. had to be about 9 or so, standing there alone, so you flipped a puck toward him, that caught the top of the glass. The thing that impressed me, you retrieved the errant shot, then flipped it to him again. You were a star in your own right, but went out of y our way to show kindness and I have always appreciated that.
Some today can learn from that example.
Jim G

Dennis Terry,  7:09 PM  

Mr. Hull,


Happy 67th birthday...Nov. 19!

Thanks for the great entertainment in Saskatoon last evening, it was a pleasure to meet you !

Dennis T.

mik kal 4:15 PM  

I'm a 55 year old "old fart" here in Maine Mr. Hull. You will forever be my favorite Hull! Thank you for the memories... even that heart breaking game seven loss in 1971.

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