The Glorious Career of Bobby Hull
A look at Bobby Hull's lengthy and prestigious career, as well as the legacy he left
On the morning of January 30, 2023, I woke up to the tragic news that Bobby Hull, a 23-year NHL veteran, passed away at the age of 84--an age he reached just 27 days prior. Bobby Hull is a name I've heard a lot as a hockey fan; one of the great legends in hockey history. Born Robert Morgan Hull on January 3, 1939, Hull's hockey career began in the Ontario Hockey Association in 1954, playing three years for the Gall Black Hawks before joining the NHL's Chicago Black Hawks in 1957. He had 47 points (13 G/34 A) in his rookie season and finished second in Calder voting, and regarding his jersey number, Hull wore #16 and #7 before switching to his famous #9.
Hull continued to thrive over the years, racking up 50 points in his sophomore season, and in Year Three, he scored 39 goals. He also enjoyed his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well, but the 1960-61 season would be the ultimate campaign. In that year, Hull had 56 points, but 31 of them were goals, and it would end with the Black Hawks capturing the Stanley Cup, their third in franchise history and their last until 2010. The Hawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens (who were looking to win their sixth straight Cup) in a six-game Semifinal before defeating the Detroit Red Wings in a six game Final. Hull had 14 points (4 G/10 A) in 12 playoff games, and if they had awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy back then, chances are Hull would have won it.
Hull followed up his Cup year with a 50 goal season in 1961-62; his first of eight 50+ goal seasons. The Hawks returned to the Final that year, but they came up short, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hull had 14 points once again, this time, eight of them goals. Hull's numbers continued to build and build and build, along with his collection of trophies. The aforementioned 1959-60 season saw Hull win the Art Ross Trophy (league leader in points) for the first of three times (1962 and 1966), and he also won the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) in back-to-back years (1965 and 1966). However, Hull could not capture a second Stanley Cup in four tries following 1961, with his last Final appearance coming in the 1970-71 season. That year, Hull had 96 points (44 G/52 A) in the regular season, and 25 points (11 G/14 A) in the playoffs.
After 15 years with the Hawks, Hull went to the Winnipeg Jets from the rival World Hockey Association--doing so out of frustration with his salary. In his first year with the Jets (which was also the WHA's first year of existence--1972-73), Hull had 103 points (51 G/52 A)--which came after only one 100+ point season in 15 years with the Hawks. Hull would go on to capture the WHA's Avco Cup three times, doing so in 1976, 1978, and in the WHA's final year in 1979. He retired after the WHA merged with the NHL, but he would return during the 1979-80 season with the Jets before being dealt to the Hartford Whalers (the Jets and Whalers were two of the four WHA teams who joined the NHL that season). As a result of the trade, Hull (46 years of age at the time) was on the same team with his idol, Gordie Howe (who was also briefly out of retirement at age 51). He played nine games with the Whalers before retiring for good.
In 1,063 NHL games, Hull scored 610 goals, which is 18th on the all-time list. His 303 goals in the WHA are second all-time, behind Marc Tardif. Overall, counting both leagues' playoffs, Hull scored 1,018 goals in his professional career; only Wayne Gretzky (1,109) and Gordie Howe (1,071) scored more. Hull was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, while his #9 was retired by the Blackhawks, the Jets, and the Arizona Coyotes (who were the Jets' successor team after they moved to Arizona in 1996). Bobby's son, Brett Hull, an NHL legend in his own right, wore the number in his final few games with the Coyotes, and Evander Kane actually received permission from the elder Hull to wear #9 with the current Jets team (who moved from Atlanta in 2011).
Speaking of Brett Hull, he is an immensely epic representative of his father's legacy. The younger Hull played 20 seasons in the NHL (1986-2006), doing so for five different teams: Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, and the Arizona Coyotes. Like his father, Brett Hull captured the Stanley Cup, doing so twice. His first one came in 1999 with the Stars, and it was the younger Hull who famously scored the triple-overtime winner in Game Six against the Buffalo Sabres, with his skate in the blue area (which was against the rules at the time). He would add a second Cup with the Red Wings in 2002, and it all came in spite of the heavy criticism against his style of play for years.
Which brings me to the photo of the two Hulls above. The capture is from a 2018 promotion for that year's Stanley Cup Final, and it's one of my two favorites (the other being the promo for 2022). The ad is titled "Spelling," and it's centered on the players' names being on the Stanley Cup, with a vast collection of legends spelling their names. The players included Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne, Mark Messier, Bobby Orr, Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, among others. The appearance that stood out the most to me: Bobby and Brett Hull spelling "H-U-L-L" in unison. That's an emotional moment for me and it was the first thing I thought of when I heard the news of the elder Hull's passing. Every time I look at those two in that ad, I think of myself and my dad. My dad's not even close to being as big of a hockey fan as I am, but he follows the sport just enough, and he was as happy as I was when the Avs won the whole thing last year.
Calling Bobby Hull a legend is an understatement. He was nicknamed "The Golden Jet," due to his style of play, which included shooting the puck at high velocity. The Hull name lived on in the NHL with son Brett, and he had a legendary career of his own, making the pair one of the greatest father-son collaborations in sports; up there with duos such as Bobby and Barry Bonds, Archie Manning and sons Peyton and Eli, and of course, Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. The Hulls definitely belong in that conversation, and it all started with the contributions of Bobby Hull, an absolute phenom in the world's greatest sport.
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