Bobby Hull, the electrifying Blackhawks left wing who brought the Stanley Cup to Chicago in 1961 and was a former team ambassador, died, the team announced Monday. He was 84.
Keeping up with Hull will forever be one of the most arduous tasks presented in the NHL. The revered Blackhawks wing, nicknamed “The Golden Jet,” often attracted multiple defenders shadowing his every move to compensate for his blistering shot and open ice speed.
His life off the ice and statements attributed to him after his playing career also cloud his legacy.
In a statement, Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said: “Bobby Hull will always be remembered as one of the greatest Blackhawks players of all time. When I assumed leadership of the organization upon my father’s passing in 2007, one of my first priorities was to meet with Bobby to convince him to come back as an ambassador of the team. His connection to our fans was special and irreplaceable.”
Hull became the first NHL player to score more than 50 goals in a season in 1966, and he reached 50 goals four more times.
He was a bellwether at Chicago Stadium for 15 years — leading the league in scoring for seven of them — along with “Million Dollar Line” members Murray Balfour and Bill Hay.
“Some people say they don’t hear the fans when they play. But they’re full of crap,” Hull told The Tribune in 1988. “Every time I picked up that puck behind the net I could hear them and feel the electricity. The faster I went, the further up ice I skated, the louder it got and the more exciting it was.”
Hull left the Blackhawks in 1972 to join the World Hockey Association’s Winnipeg Jets as a player/coach. He attempted two short-lived NHL comebacks before retiring from hockey and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1983. Hull denounced former Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz for decades after his Hawks career, but reconciled with his son and current owner Rocky Wirtz in 2008.
“I couldn’t be any happier. I can live the rest of my life knowing the Blackhawks wanted me back and I wanted to be back,” Hull said after becoming a team ambassador. “I never thought I would wear any jersey but crimson. I thought I’d live and I’d die as a Chicago Blackhawk and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Hull made his NHL debut with the Hawks on Oct. 8, 1957, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a 1-0 win at Chicago Stadium.
He scored his first goal against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 22, 1957, to start an eight-game point streak.
Hull went on to become a three-time winner (1960, ‘62 and ‘66) and two-time runner-up (1964 and ‘67) of the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top point scorer, a two-time winner (1965 and ‘66) and two-time runner up (1967 and ‘68) of the Hart Memorial Trophy as the regular season’s most valuable player, and also won the 1965 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.
He ranks third in franchise points (1,153) behind Stan Mikita and Patrick Kane. No one in Hawks history has come close to his record 28 hat tricks. Mikita is second with 16.
”The Chicago Blackhawks are saddened by the passing of Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, a superstar for our franchise between 1957 and 1972,” the team said in a statement.
“Hull is part of an elite group of players who made a historic impact on our hockey club. The Golden Jet helped the Blackhawks win the 1961 Stanley Cup and delivered countless memories to our fans, whom he adored. Generations of Chicagoans were dazzled by Bobby’s shooting prowess, skating skill and overall team leadership that led to 604 career goals, a franchise record that remains to this day.”
Hull retired from hockey after splitting the 1979-80 season between the Jets and Hartford Whalers.
Though mostly in the news for his achievements on the ice, Hull was charged with assault and battery of his wife, Deborah, at his Willowbrook home in 1986. Twelve years later, Hull told The Moscow Times that “Hitler, for example, had some good ideas. He just went a little bit too far.” He later claimed that the interviewer misinterpreted Hull’s translation. A 2002 ESPN documentary detailed further allegations of spousal abuse, womanizing, drinking, ignoring his children and suggestions of racist views.
In February 2022, the Blackhawks announced Hull would cease serving as a team ambassador.
Hull is survived by Deborah and his children Bobby Jr., Blake, Brett, Bart and Michelle. Bobby and Brett are the only father-son tandem in NHL history to tally more than 50 goals in a season and more than 600 career scores.
Brother Dennis Hull played for the Hawks from 1964-77, overlapping with Bobby up to 1971-72, his final season in Chicago.
The Hawks retired Bobby Hull’s No. 9 on Dec. 18, 1983, at Chicago Stadium.
“Anything I ever did was for the betterment of the game. Not money,” Hull said in 1988. “Money is crazy. You have to play hockey for more than that.
“I don’t regret anything I did. I regret that some jerks came along on my coattails and got paid for doing nothing. But when it comes to the game and the way I played it, I regret nothing. That was fun, and that’s the only reason to play.”
©2023 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.