Hall Call for Hull
Monday, 11.9.2009 / 1:07 PM CT / News
By Bob Matuszak
TORONTO -- As a teenager, Brett Hull knew he had giant footsteps to follow. That's when he decided to make his own tracks.
"I realized when I was 15 that, not just in hockey but in life in general, if I didn't figure out who Brett Hull was while still being honored and loving the fact that I was Bobby Hull's son, I wasn't going to be anyone," Brett said. "So I developed kind of the game that I played just so I could be different."
After retiring after five games with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005, Hull continues to be the NHL's third-leading all-time goal scorer with 741 tallies in 1,269 games. He's also second on the NHL career list with 265 power-play goals, and third in game-winners with 110.
Hull added 650 assists, and his 1,391 points currently ranks 21st on the all-time NHL list. He won two Stanley Cups while with Dallas (1999) and Detroit (2002), played on eight All-Star teams -- he won the 1992 All-Star Game MVP award -- two Olympic squads (1998, 2002), and was part of the 1996 USA team that won the World Cup.
"I think I'm the luckiest guy in the world because I have no idea how it happened," Hull said on Monday from the Hockey Hall of Fame's Great Hall room, where he received his Hall of Fame ring in a morning ceremony. "I got to play with wonderful players, and I made sure when I played I was just having fun. I figured if I was having fun, then the game was going to go the right way for me."
How could things go wrong? With a blistering one-timer from the off-wing, or a wicked wrister from the right side of the ice, Hull preyed on helpless goalies throughout his 19-year career.
After spending time with Blues assistant coach Bob Berry following his breakout 41-goal campaign with St. Louis in 1988-89 to work on his quick wrist shot, Hull suddenly took the NHL by storm, racking up goals at such a rapid pace that fans would make sure to be in their seats when the game started, afraid they'd miss any of Hull's magic.
When he signed with Dallas in the summer of '98, Hull had already netted over 500 goals, including a career-high 86 in 1991 with St. Louis, and was thought to be the missing piece of the Stars' Stanley Cup puzzle. But even with his glittering past, Hull knew he had to pay his dues on a close-knit team that had just lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1998 Western Conference finals.
"I had to earn respect by being able to adapt to coach (Ken) Hitchcock's style and defensive system," he said.
Teaming with center Mike Modano, Hull gave the Stars that extra bullet they needed during tight games, and delivered the Stars first-ever Stanley Cup championship with his game-winning goal in the third overtime of Game 6 of the finals against the Buffalo Sabres.
Ironically, it was the type of goal that was the exact opposite of what Hull was known for. Rather than unleashing a blast from the top of the right circle, or cranking a one-timer from the high slot, Hull shoveled in his own rebound from in tight past a sprawled Dominik Hasek.
"He was someone special," fellow inductee and New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoreillo said. "He loved the game. Loved to play, and had fun doing it. He knew how to go to the open spot to create an opportunity for himself to score."
Brett naturally gives plenty of thanks to his famous father for helping his NHL career flourish. But he also conceded that he needed that motherly touch as well in order to gain proper perspective on things when rough waters were encountered.
"She was so supportive throughout the years," he said. "A guy like my dad, who knew so much about the game, you'd get two goals and he'd say, 'Well, why didn't you get three?' But she was always like, 'You were great, you played great.' I think she gave me my kind of laid-back attitude where trying to live up to Bobby Hull didn't seem like that big of a burden. She also helped me with my wit, so I give her a lot of credit."
Hull also was influenced heavily by Wayne Gretzky, who played briefly with Hull at the end of the 1995-96 season in St. Louis.
"We became very good friends," Hull said. "Just watching him and how he handled himself. We obviously didn't play the same way, but those were some more footsteps to follow. If you wanted to be known as a great player, you have to be able to do some of the things that he did, like score goals and be a winner. Being able to reach for those stars, it makes you a better player."
Though always outspoken on and off the ice during his time in the spotlight, Hull was humbled when he was informed that he was given the highest honor for a professional hockey player over this past summer.
"I was in my golf clothes waiting to go to the golf course," he said. "When (the call) came it was a great moment."
A moment when the game finally gave back to a player that meant so much to its growth and popularity in the 1990s.
"I think he was an exciting player in the league, and he sold tickets for the league," his first agent and current Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said. "Not many players can do that."
That's because there weren't many players quite like Brett Hull.