1939-2023 | Bobby Hull is no more

Blackhawks sniper Bobby Hull died Monday morning according to Chicago news outlet, the Daily Herald.

Hull, the Blackhawks’ all-time leading scorer, had just celebrated his 84e birthday on January 3. He wore the colors of the Illinois club for 15 seasons. He also played for the Winnipeg Jets and the Hartford Whalers.

Despite seven WHA campaigns with the Jets, Hull finished his career with 610 NHL goals. He sits on the 18e rank of scorers in the history of the Bettman circuit. Son Brett takes 5e level in this category.

Hull, the dazzling thrower, entered the league in the 1957-58 season. He scored 30 or more goals for 13 consecutive seasons, then left for the World Hockey Association in 1972 when the league agreed to pay him $1 million.

Hull, Stan Mikita and others led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup in 1961.

Hull also became the first player to score more than 50 goals in a season on March 12, 1966, and finished with 54 goals that season.

Hull’s life, however, was not free of controversy.

He was accused of domestic violence and was also quoted by a Russian newspaper in 1998, where he said that Adolf Hitler « had good ideas » and that the black community in the United States was growing too quickly. He strongly denied these statements in the LA Timessaying at the time « deeply offended » by these « false statements ».

Hull and Mikita were named Blackhawks ambassadors in 2010 by then-president John McDonough.

Hull and the AMH, the tectonic plates are moving

50 years ago last summer, the « Golden Jet » left the Chicago Blackhawks to join the Winnipeg Jets, of the newly created World Hockey Association (WHA). At the time, the announcement of Hull’s move to the WHA made headlines across America. His popularity was immense.

Hull was a star of the first dimension and he assumed this role with panache. Hull became the ideal candidate to be the « face » of the WHA: his presence would convince fans that the league was serious and encourage other NHL players to take the leap.

In addition to granting him an annual salary of $250,000, the AMH grants a signing bonus of 1 million to Hull. All the teams of the circuit are called upon to raise this sum. And so, on a beautiful summer day, Hull becomes a member of the Jets, acclaimed by the fans of a city in which he had never set foot.

One might think that the story ends there. It’s the contrary. Hull’s transfer to the WHA triggers hostilities between the two leagues. Until then, the NHL did not believe the young circuit capable of destabilizing it and, above all, of jeopardizing its business model based on the “reserve clause”. This clause, incorporated into the contracts of all the players, deprived them of all autonomy.

Several NHL teams, accustomed to their position of strength, threatened their players over the following weeks. Despite this hot context, several players are making the leap to the WHA. Among them, defender Jean-Claude Tremblay leaves the Montreal Canadiens and joins the Quebec Nordiques.

But for the NHL, the case of Hull is the most significant. It is around him that revolves the legal recourse which promises to be decisive for the future. On November 8, 1972, Judge Leon Higginbotham rendered a historic decision in a Philadelphia court. It prohibits the use of the « reserve clause », which allows Hull to endorse the uniform of the Jets.

The creation of the WHA and the end of the « reserve clause » profoundly changed professional hockey. Now players enjoy real bargaining power. Hull was at the heart of this historic movement of tectonic plates.

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