Bobby Hull, a 12-time All-Star and two-time Hart Trophy winner who was also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, passed away on January 30, the Chicago Blackhawks reported. He was 84.
“We send our deepest sympathies to the Hull family,” the team said in a statement. “The Hull Family has requested privacy during this difficult time. They appreciate the sympathies that have been sent their way.”
The Hockey Hall of Fame organization is saddened to learn of the passing of Honoured Member Bobby Hull.
We extend our condolences to the Hull family. pic.twitter.com/3M1wEvIz6h
— Hockey Hall of Fame (@HockeyHallFame) January 30, 2023
When Hull departed the Chicago Blackhawks in 1972 to join the Winnipeg Jets in the fledgling World Hockey Association, his slapshot was heard throughout the hockey world.
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Who was Bobby Hull?
Due to his speed on the ice and blond hair, Hull earned the nickname “Golden Jet” during his playing career. Hull rose to fame in Chicago after working with Stan Mikita to help the Blackhawks end a 23-year title drought by winning the Stanley Cup in 1961.
Hull adopted Mikita’s strategy of bending the blade of his wooden stick in the 1960s and developed one of the league’s most dreaded slap shots as a result. He apparently hit the ball with a slap shot at 118 mph.
He spent 15 seasons with Chicago and now holds the 604th-most goals scored in the history of the team. He shared the ice with his brother Dennis, a Blackhawks goal scorer with 298 goals, for eight of those seasons. In 1964–65 and 1965–66, Bobby Hull earned back-to-back Hart Memorial Trophies as the league’s most valuable player, winning the NHL scoring championship for the third time in his career.
Hull left the Blackhawks and the NHL in 1972 to secure the first $1 million deal in professional hockey history (10 years, $1.75 million), and he joined the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA as a player/coach.
In addition to helping the Jets win Avco Cups in 1976 and 1978, he played seven seasons in the WHA. In the 1972–73 and 1974–75 seasons, he received two Gordie Howe Trophies for being the league’s most valuable player, the latter of which included a career-high 77 goals.
He declared his retirement during the 1978–1979 season, but after the NHL and WHA amalgamated, he opted to come back the next year. In 1979–80, he played 18 games for the Jets before being dealt to the Hartford Whalers, where he played nine games before once more retiring.
His reputation, however, was damaged by controversies that occurred off the field, such as allegations of abuse from prior wives and a 1998 interview with the Moscow Times in which he apparently professed support for the Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.
In 1988, four years following his entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Jets retired his No. 9. However, his number was unretired so that his son could wear it.
Along with the other two members of The Hot Line, Anders Hedberg, and Ulf Nillson, he was inducted into the newly established Jets Hall of Fame in 2016, however, Hull did not show up for the ceremony.
Hull was a success on the ice, but he also had personal problems with his family and the law.
Two of his three wives came forward and accused him of domestic violence. Joanne McKay, a figure skater who was his second wife, claimed that in 1966, during an incident in Hawaii, he held her over a balcony and struck her with a shoe. In 1978, he allegedly threatened her with a loaded shotgun. Following an incident in 1984, his third wife Deborah filed charges but eventually withdrew them. Hull, however, eventually entered a guilty plea to assaulting a police officer while being arrested and was sentenced to a $150 fine as well as six months of court supervision.
Hull faced criticism in 1998 for telling The Moscow Times that Hitler “had some good ideas” but “just went a bit too far” and that the Black population in the United States was increasing too quickly.
Hull’s departure as a club ambassador was announced by the Blackhawks last year. After Mikita passed away in 2018 and Tony Esposito passed away in 2021, the team said that the position of team ambassador would be redefined.