In the first entry of chicagoblackhawks.com's "85 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers" series, Hall of Famer Pierre Pilote remembers the career of teammate and fellow 1961 Stanley Cup champion Bobby Hull.
I feel very lucky that I get to discuss Bobby Hull’s career but also a little unlucky too… What can you really say about somebody like him that hasn’t already been said?
"85 YEARS" SERIES
On November 17, 1926, the Chicago Black Hawks took the ice for the first time. 85 years later, the Blackhawks hold an important place in NHL history and Chicago sports.
In celebration of the Blackhawks’ 85th anniversary, Blackhawks Magazine and chicagoblackhawks.com will profile some of the greatest players to ever don the sweater, with essays written by the people who knew them best: teammates, rivals, broadcasters and other members of the NHL community.
Check chicagoblackhawks.com every Wednesday for another entry in the "85 Years" series.
Let me start with this: Bobby Hull was, and always has been, a good friend to me. For years, we sat beside each other in the dressing room, down the stairs of the Chicago Stadium. And our relationship was very good, both on and off the ice.
I go back to the time when I first saw him. I was playing for Buffalo, and he was playing with my brother, Florent, I think in Galt, Ontario. He came down when I was getting ready to play a game, and that was the first time I met him. He was just a kid with a big, blond head of hair, but you knew he was going to be a good player just because it was clear how much he wanted it.
The second time I saw him he was playing beside me in an exhibition game and scored two goals against New York. They called his mom and dad and said, “We want to talk to you. We want to sign Bobby to an NHL contract.” The rest, as they say, is history.
During a game or in a practice, we always played off of each other very well and knew each other’s every move. He would give the puck to me, and I would know he’d want it back. Or I’d jump in the hole, and he’d pass it to me. We really got along great.
Over the summers, he would invite me and my family to his cottage in Belleville, Ontario, and we went almost every offseason. I knew his family really well and loved the time we spent together.
Until my last year in the league, I never had to face Bobby as an opponent, but I did know how difficult it was to play against him. Every once in a while, the coaches changed the lineup and I had to practice against him, and I realized how hard he was to stop. He came down on me, and he would give you a leg, and you would try to hit him, and all of a sudden he was gone.
He was very powerful; you should have seen him. His strength wasn’t manufactured at the gym; he was born with that strength. I also remember him coming back one year — he used to work on a farm all summer — and his arms were bigger than my legs.
Without a doubt, “The Golden Jet” was the most exciting player of our generation, and he could fill up an arena. Bobby lifted you right out of your seat. When he took off down the ice, you felt the crowd hold their breath, and if I was on the bench, I would too. When he picked up the puck, you kind of went with him. It was not a question whether he was going to be passing the puck to someone else to shoot in: He was going on net and letting one go. More often than not, it went in. The goaltenders feared his shot.
I watched Bobby play some tremendous games, but it was amazing to be sitting beside him, because hey, he was really just one of the boys. As far as getting along, Bobby got along with every player. He was nice to me, nice to my family, and he was just something to see when we traveled on the road. After the game, when we were supposed to be catching the bus, there were always big lines to meet him, and he would sign every autograph. He put on a show; there’s no doubt about that. Every athlete has to believe they’re great, but Bobby never let it get in the way of being a good teammate.
One of my best memories of Bobby wasn’t a personal highlight but a team effort: winning the Stanley Cup in 1961. Bobby was coming into his own, I was coming into my own, and Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall and everybody seemed to hit their top. We had acquired some pretty good guys like Al Arbour and Dollard St. Laurent and Jack Evans, and they made a big difference. We were a team that played together and wanted to win; no one person was bigger than the team. We just really wanted to win, and it worked out for us. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck and have good players; we had both.
Of course, when you mention Bobby, it’s not too soon after that you have to mention his son, Brett, along with him. There are not too many father-son tandems who did what they did, and I am proud to say I watched both of them very closely.
One story I hold very close to my heart about Bobby: The first year when he scored 50 goals, he was up to his 47th goal and I said to him, “Give me the puck.” He said, “No, that’s the highest I’ve ever been,” and there was only about two or three games left. He did give me the puck, but he went on to score three more anyway.
Quite a few years after that, Brett was playing, and he was scoring a lot of goals. I called Bobby and said, “Looks like Brett is going to be scoring 50 goals this year, for sure. I want Brett’s 47th puck also.” So I got Brett’s 47th puck and Bobby’s 47th puck, both autographed by them. To me, it’s a very meaningful thing from one of hockey’s greatest families.