The United States Hockey Hall of Fame has some new plaques that it's putting up in time for the opening of the U.S. college hockey season. Among the new members being inducted at the Oct. 10 ceremony in Denver is Brett Hull (along with Cammi Granato, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter).
To one-time Calgary Flames teammate Carey Wilson, however, Brett Hull was just one of the kids that skated with him after the WHA Winnipeg Jets practiced at the Winnipeg Arena in the 1970s. Hull's dad, of course, is Bobby Hull, who joined Winnipeg after leaving the Chicago Blackhawks in 1972.
Wilson hit the ice after practices, playing with the Hull kids, and he remembers Brett as a good kid who was pretty easy going.
"Brett was far more laid back and I knew him extremely well," Wilson said of his boyhood pal. "He was just a fun, easy-going kid with an incredible amount of gifted talent. Obviously that came to fruition later on in his life. Everybody second-guessed him and every level he went to, he just scored goals."
The boyhood friends became teammates in Calgary in 1986-87, and Wilson said the same pattern emerged when Hull joined the Flames.
"I was in Calgary when he started his (NHL) career and he was back and forth in the minor," Wilson said. "Here's a kid, you know, he gets called up to the team, he scores two goals, the next day he gets sent down. I said 'Hey, he is scoring the goals, you know that is why we play the game.' He went on to St. Louis and scored and scored and scored."
A lot of kids dream of playing in the NHL. But it's a long way from the pond, river, rink or even the Winnipeg Arena to the NHL, even if those kids are the sons of NHL players like Wilson and Hull, who both made it against long odds.
"Well, it was a great part of my youth," Wilson said. "My dad was involved with the Winnipeg Jets and was responsible for a bit of the history of it, bringing back (Anders) Hedberg and (Ulf) Nilsson to Winnipeg among several other Swedes and Finns. I remember when Bobby Hull came in and going to Jets hockey practices and skating with the Hull boys after practice and being able to rub shoulders and make some passes with the likes of Bobby Hull and Hedberg and Nilsson. I already had an incredible love for the game. Those are some great memories for a young kid to be able to get and be a part of."
Not only was Brett Hull one of Wilson's buddies, but Wilson adopted Brett's dad as his hockey role model.
"He (Bobby) was fantastic," said Wilson of his boyhood idol. "You know if there was somebody I tried to emulate when I turned pro, I never ever saw Bobby Hull ever turn away from an autograph. He did things you don't see nowadays. After warmup, people would be hanging their programs on the glass, he would be out another five, six minutes signing autographs around the Plexiglas while the Zamboni was going around cleaning the ice. You don't see that nowadays, but that was what Bobby Hull was like and was very good with his peers and the young kids and I just tried to be the same way, give those kids that kind of time."
Brett Hull had dual citizenship, even though he was born in Belleville, Ontario. He was playing hockey in the Chicago area in youth leagues until making the move to Winnipeg when he was 8. Hull was drafted by Calgary in the sixth round, the 117th pick of the 1984 draft, and went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He decided to play for Team USA in the 1986 World Championships in Moscow even though he could have played for Canada.
Hull started his pro career with the AHL's Moncton Golden Flames and just scored goals. He had 50 with Moncton in 1986-87 and even though he scored 26 goals in 52 games and was a plus-12, Calgary sent him to St. Louis along with Steve Bozek for defenseman Rob Ramage and goaltender Rick Wamsley on March 7, 1988. All he did in St. Louis was score goals.
Hull signed as a free agent with Dallas in the summer of 1998 and just scored goals. He was part of the 1999 Dallas Stars Stanley Cup team. Hull signed a free-agent contract with Detroit in the summer of 2001 and just scored goals with the Red Wings and was part of the Red Wings' 2001-02 Stanley Cup champions.
And Hull was a mainstay with Team USA in international competition.
Hull just scored goals, ending up with 741 of them along with 650 assists. He scored 86 goals in 1990-91 and added another 70 the following year. In 1992-93 and 1993-94, he had 50-goal seasons. He scored on every level and had 50-goal seasons in college hockey, the AHL and the NHL, the only player ever to do that. The St. Louis Blues retired Hull's No. 16 in 2006, making the Hulls the only father-son combination to have retired numbers in professional sports as the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets retired Bobby's No. 9. When Hull signed with Phoenix in 2004, he was giving the No. 9 retired uniform that the Phoenix franchise inherited from Winnipeg when the Jets franchise was sold and moved in 1996. Because of the lockout in 2004-05, Hull had to wait until the following season to play and retired after just five games in 2005-06. The No. 9 went back into retirement with Brett.
Wilson was right -- all Brett Hull could do is score goals, and when you get down to hockey, isn't that why they play the game?