Depending on whom you ask, the name "Brett Hull
" usually conjures up memories of pleasure and pain.
Hull was a pleasure to those former teammates who watched him on the ice while experiencing his effervescent demeanor off the ice. But Hull was also a pain to those opposing goalies tasked with standing in front of his 100-plus mph cannon.
"The first time I played against him, I go into St. Louis and he's on the one (faceoff) dot and there's a power play," New Jersey Devils
goalie Martin Brodeur
recalled. "I go down and I'm on my butt like this (sitting down, facing the shooters) and (Craig) Janney makes a pass right across. I'm sitting there on my goal line and the (crossbar) is (six inches above my head) and he fires it and it went in.
"It was probably the only time they scored and I was glad it went in -- I thought I was going to die."
Former Rangers goalie Mike Richter
, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Hull in 2008, recalls his first meeting with "The Golden Brett."
"It wouldn't surprise me if Brett had a great shot from about the time he was 2 years old," Richter laughed. "I remember playing against him in college and everyone was telling me to watch this one guy because he had a hard shot. I was like, 'How hard could the shot be?' But he scored at will and was eating up the league. I remember him telling me he never used to aim. As a goalie, you could never get set, it was 'Boom' and in the net.'"
Hull was always particular and never secretive about what made his shot so lethal.
"Developing the proper fundamentals and going out and shooting every day," Hull told NHL.com. "But you've got to have a proper shooters' stick if you want to be able to shoot the puck. You have to have the proper curve, the proper flex, proper lie and proper technique and then go from there."
Unfortunately, that advice was precisely what drove teammates crazy. One case study was provided by Devils' captain Jaime Lagenbrunner, who played three seasons with Hull during his time with the Dallas Stars
in the late 1990s.
"Brett was one of the most interesting guys I've ever played with as far as not being afraid to say what was on his mind at any given time," Langenbrunner told NHL.com. "But that shot of his -- second to none. He would try to help guys with what he thought was the reason he shot the puck so hard by telling us we all used whimpy sticks. I remember trying to use his stick a few times, but I couldn't even get it off the ice with his stick."
Brodeur can recall Hull unleashing two unique shots.
"It was a pretty heavy shot when he kept it low, but it was the quickness," Brodeur said. "He had a lot of flex on his stick so it was coming really hard when it was on the ice, but it was coming quick when it was going high. Those were the two different shots he had."
Langenbrunner was also amazed with Hull's practice sessions.
"He would never miss the net while working on one-timers," Langenbrunner recalled. "He'd pick every one of them so clean and never miss; it didn't matter how he was standing or where the pass came from. I think that's what made him even more effective -- his accuracy. He always put the pressure on the goalie to make the save."
Long-time Flyers goalie Ron Hextall
said of Hull: "When he comes in on the wing, he's got an awful lot of speed. If you give him a hole, he hits it."
"Brett was always downplaying himself and how good he was at shooting the puck," Langenbrunner said. "But, finally, we'd all just say, 'No Hully, it's you.' He knew just how to pick the puck off the ice."
Langenbrunner did admit there were a few tips Hull shared that actually have stuck with him to this day.
"Brett always used to get lost in the offensive zone and find that dead space where the defense wasn't," Langenbrunner said. "That was something he was very good at. It's pretty weird because how do you not know where Brett Hull
is on the ice, but he found a way to hide in the offensive zone and then spring into a spot to score goals. That's something he also tried to teach us but, again, that's not an aspect of the game that you just start doing. That's something that comes naturally and he had it."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com