Marine Midland Arena, Buffalo, New York. June 20th, 1999. Game 6 of the
Stanley Cup finals; between the Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres. All
tied at a goal each in triple overtime. The game was just a minute shy of
being the longest sudden death playoff in NHL history, when Brett Hull took
control of the puck in front of the Sabres net.
"To get the game winning goal in triple overtime. it still gives me goose
bumps thinking about it. It's great."
Brett Hull was born on August 9th, 1964 in Belleville Ontario to American
superstar parents. Jo Anne, a figure skater from Malibu. Bobby a 15 year
The middle of five children, Bobby Jr., Blake, Brett, Bart and Michelle,
Brett never had the desire to play hockey like his older brothers. From a
very early age, all of the Hull children were skating; the boys were
playing hockey. Only Brett was the natural.
When Brett was playing community hockey at the age of 8, his oldest brother
Bobby Jr. was playing for a junior hockey team. Because Bobby Jr. was named
after his father, he took the blunt of the criticism that came from
coaches, teammates, parents and opponents. "If I would have known that I
would score goal one, I never would have named Bobby that. It's the worst
thing I ever did to the kid." Bobby Sr. said of his son.
Bobby Jr. didn't handle the pressure of people expecting him to be another
Golden Jet well and quit hockey. But Brett couldn't care less what people
had to say about him. He wasn't his father, and he knew that.
"Brett was a cool cat. He handled the pressure way better than I could ever
think to handle it." Bobby Jr. said of Brett. "Brett just wanted to have
fun." Brett was never a very strong or fast skater, so he practiced
shooting. From the time he was 6, he could stand at the red line and lift
the puck into the net. He was a natural talent with a genetic shot.
A rival hockey league team, from the WHL, was on Bobby Hull to sign to the
Manitoba based Winnipeg Jets in Canada. Bobby finally got tired of it and
told his agent to tell Winnipeg that he wanted one million dollars;
figuring the outrageous price would set them off. The Jet's accepted. Bobby
signed to Winnipeg in 1972 for a 10 year 2.75 million dollar deal.
The move to Manitoba put a tremendous strain on Bobby and Jo Anne's
relationship. He had a bad temper and sometimes brought it home with him.
"He's very intense. He's a little bit scary sometimes." Bobby Jr. said of
his father. Bobby attempted to shoot Jo Anne once while they fought, and
the family was falling apart. Bobby Jr. would sometimes have to step in and
break up their fighting before it went too far; and Michelle recalls all
their fights as being very violent. Jo Anne was extremely un-happy, as when
the cops were called, they were always hockey fans. They would calm Bobby
down, and go away.
Finally divorcing, Jo Anne, Brett, Bart, Blake and Michelle moved to
At 17, Brett was over-weight and far away from the Winnipeg Jets, his
father and almost all hockey influence on his life. He began to loose
In 1982, Brett's friend was trying out for a British Columbia Jr. Hockey
league, known as the Penticon Knights. Brett's mother encouraged him to go
along and tryout. He made the team.
At 17 and 225 pounds, Brett was not in the best of shapes, he was slow and
not a strong skater. But his shot was a canon. Breaking 2 or 3 stick a
practice; he was only player in the league allowed to use an aluminum stick
because his shot was ruining the team's stick budget.
After his first season, his coach approached him and informed him that if
continued to play as sluggishly as he was, he wouldn't be on the team the
following season. His second year, he came back and scored 100 goals. A
Knights record, that remains unbroken.
Colleges were all over Brett, and he finally chose the University of
Minnesota Duluth because it fit his personality. Laid back.
1985 was his freshman year, and he led the team in scoring with 32 goals in
48 games. His sophomore year, he scored 50 goals in 48. In 1986, during his
second year at Minnesota, NHL team, Calgary Flames came calling. Before his
junior year, he signed with them.
Calgary had more right-wingers than they needed and sent Brett to their
minor league affiliate in Moncton, New Brunswick. His coach there, an ex-
Philadelphia Flyer with a no-nonsense approach to the game, named Terry
Crisp clashed with Brett instantly.
"I'm not gonna say we bumped heads, but he bumped his against mine." Brett
later said. For a time, he was kicked off the team for the reason of having
too much fun. "I can play this game. Put me on the ice and let me play or
get me the hell outta here."
Back in Calgary, Brett didn't enjoy sitting in the press box, "You can't
play from the end of the bench. You know, I'm supposed to be an up and
coming star for the Calgary Flames and I'm down in their minor league team
and I'm not playing."
The next season, Brett returned to Calgary, and Terry Crisp returned with
him; as the new coach for the Flames. But Brett was better off for the time
he spent with that team, "I learned a tough lesson in Moncton: how to work
for a boss who disliked my approach to both life and hockey."
The Flames were a major contender for the Stanley Cup, but had a few holes
in their line-up. They received Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley in a trade with
St. Louis for Brett.
Without Brett, Calgary won the Cup. But Brett felt no remorse or sadness.
Brett told a newspaper in St. Louis, if he didn't score 40 goals in his
first season with the Blues, he'd be disappointed. He scored 42.
Head coach Brian Sutter called Brett for a meeting in his office; Brett
expecting a pat on the back and some congrats for a good season, was told
he could do better. If he worked harder and improved his work ethic, there
was no limit to what he could do.
Though a little stunned, Brett knew, "If this guy has enough faith in me to
tell me that I'm not living up to my potential, then I'm gonna show him
what I can do."
The St. Louis Blues were ready to offer him a new contract. If he bagged
100 points, he would receive a 100% increase. Brett's agent sent a
counteroffer. Brett would sign for one year, plus a $250,000 option, with a
bonus package that included $10,000 for 30 goals, $10,000 more for 45, and
$30,000 for 50.
The Blues weren't quite ready for that. A week later they offered four
years at $150,000, $160,000, $170,000 and $170,000. No go with Brett. By
Christmas of that year Brett had 31 goals in 36 games. His success put more
pressure on the Blues to sign him. They offered $200,000, $250,000,
$300,000 and $325,000. Brett's agent told them negotiations started at
$600,000, $700,000, $800,000 plus signing bonuses for three years.
No response for 30 days. Brett netted his hundred points, with 72 goals and
a few dozen assists.
The final deal was Brett signing for $7 million for four years. With
$600,000 to sign and $25,000 bonus for every home playoff game.
But the pressure to score was prevalent, "The expectation and pressure I
put on myself to score. I was afraid to death I was never gonna score
Next season, Brett was league MVP with 86 goals.
Hesitantly, Brett decided to marry his girlfriend Allison; the mother of
his two children and the expectant mother of his third. "I never was gonna
get married. I really didn't see any reason why that you had to have a
piece of paper showing your commitment to someone."
But the Blues were never a Cup contender, and the Blues began to suspect
that Brett was the problem.
Ex coach Terry Crisp couldn't believe the accusation the Blues were making.
"How can you tell me if you give me a scoring machine I can't win a Stanley
Cup with him. Now, mind you, everybody always said, 'Well, Brett's free-
wheelie, he doesn't play defensive hockey, he doesn't know his defensive
end, blah blah blah. As a coach, I can find somebody to play defense, I
can't find somebody to score me 75 goals."
Neither could Bobby Jr. "One guy cannot win the Stanley Cup for ya. I think
that towards the end in St. Louis, things got a little sour; it was a
forgone conclusion that he was leaving. And I think some words were said
that shouldn't have been."
But Brett's relationship with the front office and some teammates was
forever tainted. Brett was not offered another deal with the Blues.
"I was let go. I wanted to come back and play for St. Louis. They didn't
want me back. I still don't know if I really totally have forgiven them for
that. It's gonna be a long time before I ever let 16 hang in the rafters,
if they ever ask me, I know that."
If to the Blues, Brett Hull was the problem, to the Dallas Stars, Brett was
the answer. In 1999 Brett signed to the Stars and had an amazing year.
Scoring his 600th goal with them, and being accepted as the savior of the
Stars, Dallas was easily seated in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After fighting to the win as the Western Conference Champions, they faced a
hard fight against the Buffalo Sabres. Brett was seriously injured going
into the final few games; he tore his Medial Collateral and had taken
several pucks to the face.
"He had no business playing in Game 6 in Buffalo. He was banged up beyond
belief." Keenan said,
When triple overtime came around and Brett took control of the puck. It was
sheer poetry for him to score. It was a big "screw you" to everyone that
doubted him. And it was beautiful. Despite claims by Buffalo that the goal
was illegal, the Stars had it won. It was perfect.
Perfection never lasts though, Brett divorced his wife after his marriage
had slowly been depleted in 2000; and the Stars were unable to repeat their
Stanley Cup victory the following year.
But life was soon to be good again. In the 2001-2002 season, a few of the
Detroit Red Wings capped their own salaries so Brett could come play for
them. And thus the Wings brought their third Cup to Detroit in five years.
Brett went on to score his 700th goal donning the Winged wheel, stating
that he was "Proud to do it in this jersey."
"Brett is in no way compared to his dad anymore. He set his own path and
he's proven to everybody that he's one of the greatest hockey players in
his own right." Bobby Jr. said.
As for life after hockey, Brett has that figured out too. An avid golfer,
he plans to play in some tours and tournaments. (Last year he attempted to
qualify for the U.S. Open.) And he plans to spend a lot more time with his
Both life hockey have been, for the most part, very good to Brett. "I don't
think I've ever been unhappy. There's always pieces of your life that
certain points that are unhappy, but there are other parts that are great.
I'm not gonna let anything get me down. For those things that are
unpleasant, I'm gonna deal with those but it's not gonna make me a
miserable human being."
Brett continues his career this season, still as a Wing. He has taken much
from hockey and left a remarkable impact on the game. All of his critics
learned who he was when he established himself as an unstopable force in
the NHL. "I became a man and became Brett Hull. I was not Bobby Hull's
As for the rest of his hockey days? "I will finish my career as a Red
Wing." And that, Brett, is good enough for me.