|Hull and Robitaille |
Robitaille remembered Hull as a care-free spirit with a happy-go-lucky attitude when he played against him in the 1990's. When the two hooked up in the Motor City in 2001-02, Robitaille noticed something different. Rather than seeing the easy-going right wing that had so much talent it seemed he just went through the motions, Robitaille was amazed at just how committed Hull really was.
"He was always looked at as a shooter, and there was so much more to his game," Robitaille said on Monday at the Hockey Hall of Fame. "But he was just a great all-around player. He knew how to play the game, and it was fun for me to get to play with him and watch him up close."
Hull personified the type of player that seemed to have more talent in his little finger than others had in their entire body, all the while giving the impression that he could just throw his stick on the ice, score two goals blindfolded, than innocently wink at the crowd as if he exerted little to no effort.
That, says Robitaille, is the furthest thing from the truth.
"Even though he like to walk around, have fun, and make it look like he wasn't serious about the game, he was very serious about the game." Robitaille said. "If he had a bad game or two, you'd see him at practice working hard in order to try and get right back into his game. That's what made him so successful. He didn't accept having a bad game or two. He was the one guy that was constantly trying to get better, even though he claimed he didn't care. You saw him come in early and work on his sticks and skates. When you see a guy doing that, that's not a guy who doesn't care."
Hull also impressed Robitaille with his soft hands, and the way he was able to corral a puck as if it were on a string. The byproduct of Hull's deadly-accurate shot was his ability to feather passes wherever he wanted. He could split a defenseman's legs with a strike, deftly lift the puck over a defenders stick and onto his teammates' tape, or scorch a cross-ice zinger when the pass needed velocity.
"He was a playmaker," Robitaille said. "He also could create space, and he did it without defensemen noticing."
When he joined the Stars in 1998, Hull quickly learned how to play at both ends of the rink, quieting critics that thought his only asset was what he did with the puck and not what he didn't do without it.
"Defensively, he was just a really smart player," Robitaille said.
Hull made the same impression on fellow inductee Brian Leetch, who played with Hull on the 1996 World Cup-winning United States team.
"He certainly understood what it took for him to be successful, and where he was going to find success," Leetch said. "The one thing I learned playing with him on that U.S. team is that he's an extremely smart player, and a great playmaker. He actually used to overpass it in practice just so guys knew that he could pass the puck. He'd be feathering it all over the place, over and under sticks, and you'd say, 'Wow, this guy can really pass that puck.'"
With today's tight-checking game, it seems hard to fully grasp what Hull accomplished offensively. Recording three consecutive 70 goal seasons, scoring 50 times in 50 games twice, and potting 86 tallies in one season are mind-blowing numbers. But as good as Hull was during his prolific 19-year career, Hall of Fame inductee Lou Lamoriello feels that another generation will have the opportunity to witness the second-coming of Brett Hull sometime in the future.
"We'll see another," Lamoriello said. "Every time we think a record can't be broke, it's broken, and every time we think that someone won't come around, they do. We see it in every sport, so it's just a matter of time."
But until that time comes, we'll relish the blast we had while marveling at the original Brett Hull.