Hull’s pro career began with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1957-58 season, where he scored 13 goals in his rookie season. It did not take long for him to emerge as an elite star—two seasons later he earned the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s highest scorer in 1959-60, registering 39 goals and 81 points. With his fearsome shot, rumoured to have been clocked at a velocity as high as 118mph and augmented by the so-called “banana blade” curved stick, Hull would have even greater goal scoring success in the years to come. He became the third man in NHL history to score 50 goals when he reached that plateau in 1961-62, and was the first to ever score more than 50 when he lit the lamp 54 times in 1965-66. Not only was Hull a great scorer, he was a key teammate on a strong Blackhawks squad that won the Stanley Cup in 1961 and nearly repeated as champions the following season before falling to the Maple Leafs in six games.
Though he was one of the NHL’s top stars for many years, Hull did not feel appreciated for his talents. He exuded skill and was highly personable with fans, but the NHL at the time did not award the high contracts that one sees today. He joked that he would jump to the rival World Hockey Association if they offered him a million dollars—but it was no joke when the Winnipeg Jets offered him a ten-year deal that included that princely sum as a signing bonus. Hull quickly established himself as the WHA’s top man, and his offensive prowess reached even greater heights. For four consecutive seasons (1972-73 to 1975-76) he scored at least fifty goals, including a then-unprecedented 77 in the 1974-75 season. Hull led the Jets to three WHA Championships during his time with the team.
On the international stage, Hull dazzled with the 1976 Team Canada squad in the Canada Cup, registering five goals in just seven games. Because of his jump to the WHA, Hull was not a part of the more famous 1972 squad.
After injuries shortened his career once the WHA merged into the NHL, Hull retired in 1980 after just nine games played with the Hartford Whalers, where he was teammates with another legend, Gordie Howe. Despite spending several prime years in the WHA, when he retired Hull’s NHL numbers were good enough for 2nd (610) and 9th in points (1170) in League history, a testament to his scoring prowess. His famous #9 is retired by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets—after the original Jets relocated to Phoenix, the team allowed his son Brett to wear the famous number during his short tenure there in the 2005-06 season. Hull is still recognized as one of the greatest players in history, honouring him at the recent NHL All Star weekend celebration of the top 100 players in the NHL’s first 100 years.
To learn more about Bobby Hull, read his 100 Greatest NHL Players story here: