Brett Hull wasn’t seen as the typical “Dallas Stars player” back in the summer of 1998. Becoming an unrestricted free agent after 10 seasons in St. Louis with 554 goals to his credit, there was no question that he was a big fish on the market.
Chicago was very interested, a natural move since father Bobby made his name with the Blackhawks. Montreal was also very interested in signing Hull, as were the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But a conversation between Stars owner Tom Hicks and President Jim Lites set up the pursuit and eventual landing of Brett Hull by the Dallas Stars.
Dallas had just been defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1998 Western Conference Finals. Hicks approached Lites immediately after the series was over.
“I guess I assumed it would be, ‘Good job’ – the kind of thing you don’t want to hear at that moment,” said Lites.
Instead it was the planting of a seed.
“Meet me and (General Manager )Bob (Gainey) next week and tell me exactly what you need to beat this team next year,” Lites recalls Hicks saying.
“That’s exactly what you want to hear,” said Lites. “Tom has always been a great owner and he proves it in the way he supports his teams and allows them to do what they need to do.”
Mr. Hicks spent $17 million in the off-season to sign Hull to a three-year contract, signing on July 3, 1998. Of course he went on to score the biggest goal in Stars history in triple overtime of Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals in Buffalo that netted the franchise its first championship.
“It was the beginning of a great time in my life,” said Hull. “I love living in Dallas. I met my wife here and we call it home. Playing for Mr. Hicks was a great experience and now working with him has been as well.”
Now Hull wants to bring another Stanley Cup to Dallas. This time, as co-GM.
“I’ve always had this dream of taking a team photo with the Stanley Cup, sitting in the front row and wearing a suit,” said Hull. “We’re working toward that goal here with the Stars and I have enjoyed the process so far.”
It’s ten years later. Brett Hull is with the organization once more. The Stars are again coming off a 4-2 series loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals. Could history repeat itself?
Mr. Hicks, Hull and the entire Stars organization is hoping that the answer is yes.