Bobby Hull Q&A: Golden Jet thrilled to be part of Gordie Howe’s 85th
Legend from the sport’s glory years talks about respect and admiration he has for Mr. Hockey
VANCOUVER — On March 1, the Vancouver Giants will throw an 85th birthday bash for minority owner Gordie Howe at Pacific Coliseum. Among the invited guests are Bobby and Dennis Hull, Johnny Bower, Marcel Dionne and Orland Kurtenbach.
Sun hockey reporter Elliott Pap caught up with The Golden Jet in Chicago Friday and the two chewed over a variety of topics, including Bobby’s relationship with Gordie — calls him ‘Gordon’ — his own career highlights, his one regret, the current edition of the Blackhawks and the state of the ’Hawks-Canucks rivalry.
Question: You played against Gordie for 14 years in the NHL and another six in the World Hockey Association before finishing your careers together in 1980 with the Hartford Whalers. What was your relationship with Gordie like?
Answer: I believe we had a mutual admiration society going. He knew that I was out there to play the game within the rules, to try to out-skate him, out-think him, out-pass him, out-shoot him and out-score him. And I felt the same way. Consistency is the mark of a true professional and Gordon was a true professional. He was consistent from the day he began playing in the league until he and I both retired from the same team in the same year. He was an amazing man to be able to play as long as he played and as well as he played.
Q: Were you ever on the receiving end of one of his famous elbows?
A: Gordon would play against you the same way that you played against him. He expected no elbows from me and I received none from him.
Q: When you were asked to come to Vancouver for Gordie’s 85th, were you thinking ‘holy cow, is Gordie really turning 85?’
A: When I broke into the National Hockey League in 1957, Gordon was 10-years-plus older than me and I just had my 74th birthday on Jan. 3. So I did realize it, yes. I think it’s a wonderful thing what the team in Vancouver (the Giants) is creating for one of the greatest, if not the greatest, athlete that ever played professional sports. I look forward to coming to Vancouver for this.
Q: You won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 1961, broke the NHL record for goals in a season with 54 in the 1965-66 season, won the Hart Trophy twice and led the NHL in scoring three times. What do you consider your greatest career highlight?
A: I believe winning the Cup in 1961. I was quite young at the time, only 22, and I thought this was just going to be one of many. As it happened, it was the only one. But there were other highlights, like winning the scoring title, being the first to eclipse the 50-goal mark, being able to represent Canada in the 1974 (WHA) series against the Soviets and then playing for Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup.
Q: What about regrets or disappointments? There was a lot of publicity when you were left off the ’72 Summit Series roster of Team Canada because you were playing in the rival WHA. Did that hurt?
A: Yes. It was the only thing in my career that sticks in my craw. It was the only real disappointment — that’s the word I want to use — in my 23 years of professional hockey. I’m certainly a Canadian and I’ve always been a Canadian. I carry a Canadian passport and I was a Canadian ready to represent my country in that series. When there were reports that the Soviets couldn’t skate, couldn’t shoot and had poor goaltending, I guffawed at that. I told my dad that if these people are challenging the best, they have a good chance of winning. Had I been able to play, I would have said to the guys, ‘Let’s get ready for these people. This isn’t going to be a cakewalk. We had better be ready for them.’
Q: You and Brett were the first father-and-son tandem named to the Hockey Hall of Fame and you both scored more than 600 goals in the NHL. (Bobby 610, Brett 741.) Did you enjoy watching Brett’s success?
A: I was so proud of the way Brett conducted himself and the way he played the game within the rules. As far as I’m concerned, he became the greatest goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League. No one could score goals in so many different ways as Brett could. People come up to me, and I get letters, saying, ‘I met your son Brett and he was just like you being so nice to the fans.’ That means a lot to me.
Q: Did you attend the Blackhawks-Canucks game on Tuesday? How did you enjoy it?
A: Absolutely, I was there. The Blackhawks tried to give it away. They have a fabulous team when they’re attacking but they can’t play in their own end. As soon as they start floundering, it’s because they’re in their own end. The last three games, they tried to give them away and allowed the opposition to come back. They just don’t know how to play in their own end and I wish they would change their system.
Q: The Canucks and Blackhawks have a pretty heated rivalry going after their three playoff meetings and all the other incidents — hair pulling, elbows to the head, etc. — that have occurred between the two clubs since the 2008-09 season. What’s your take on the rivalry?
A: Oh, yes, it’s become quite a rivalry. The people here in Chicago kind of think the Vancouver Canucks are a little bit arrogant and they love to send them away with their tails between their legs.
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