October 20, 2011

The Devil And Bobby Hull

As the epic battles between Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe reached their zenith in the 1950s, another superstar arrived in the same stratosphere. Bobby Hull - hockey's Golden Jet - was every bit as good as his counterpart #9s. In fact, he was kind of a hybrid of the two. He had Howe's size and strength, and Richard's flare for the dramatic.

He may have been the greatest player of his era, the 1960s, carrying the torch from Howe and Richard until Bobby Orr came along. Hull was pro sports first million dollar man, and he had the million dollar smile to go with it. Not unlike Wayne Gretzky after him, his personality was contagiously appealing, almost as important as his athletic prowess. He transcended the game to almost Hollywood proportions

But, for a variety of reasons, Hull's lasting legacy does not measure up with the likes of Howe or Richard or Orr or Jean Beliveau. Instead he is painted as a more dastardly character. His key role in jumping to the WHA ruffled many feathers, leaving him estranged for decades with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team he is most associated with and won the Stanley Cup with. The Wirtz family, owners of the team, held a deep grudge and did what ever they could to keep Bobby out. Of course the narcissistic Bobby also has himself to blame in his tainted legacy, thanks to a very messy and very public divorce (Tiger Woods could relate) that swirled with domestic violence.

Gare Joyce offers a look at one of hockey's greatest players in The Devil and Bobby Hull: How Hockey's Original Million-Dollar Man Became the Game's Lost Legend. As Joyce says, "the world of hockey glory was his to lose. And he did."

Buy The Book: Amazon.ca- Chapters - Amazon.com

Bobby Hull ranks as one of hockey's most important figures ever. On the ice he had few equals, and remains one of the top ten players of all time. His records and brilliance are truly rarefied. His off ice contributions are every bit as important. By taking his stand against the NHL and jumping to the WHA, Hull became a millionaire, but a huge cost. He also made a lot of other hockey players rich, as his stand directly led to the spike in player salaries. Every player from the 1970s forward owes Bobby Hull a debt of gratitude.

Author Gare Joyce does a good job in building up the case for Hull as arguably hockey's greatest figure. But the he goes on to cover Hull's demise, but does not do it in a tabloidish manner which is much appreciated. With the estrangement from the Hawks and the bitter and public divorce, Hull never really recovered his golden boy image. That hurt Hull in many ways.  In the aftermath of all this the author goes on to paint Hull as a tragic character, a shadow of the legend he once was.

This is a book that very much should be considered for your reading list. It is a well rounded unauthorized biography (though Hull is prominently interviewed) of one hockey's greatest yet most tragic figures.


Unknown December 9, 2011 at 7:08 PM  

I appreciate this review. Not one media outlet in Chicago, or any where else I can find, has reviewed this book. The publisher should send review copies to the beat writers, one of whom I corresponded with and he said he has not seen the book. I look forward to reading it.

marianne cherniuk January 14, 2012 at 11:58 PM  

if Bobby Hull was such a terrible husband why would his ex wife still go by his name. It goes to show what kind of a person she is that all she is interested in is the celebrity and fame of his name. I felt so sad for him after I read this book, that probably the greatest player in the history of hockey was never given his due. I hope Bobby Hull has read this book.

Anonymous,  March 13, 2012 at 12:24 AM  

Hull was my hero growing up, and the main reason I played the game.My dad met him the summer of '71 in Vancouver. Too bad i was in hawaii at the time, but my dad got a photo of him and Bobby together. My dad's name was Bob also and he had blonde hair also. They looked like brothers shaking hands! Bobby's forearms were twice the size of Dad's tho! lol

Anonymous,  December 3, 2012 at 11:16 AM  

I read this book and it is so slanted against Bob. It is unfair and an attack on a good guy!!!! Not worth the read!!!

Brian S., Oceanside,  August 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM  

This book is a disappointment because the author failed to provide any respectable amount of original research. It seems that it was rushed into print and was in dire need of another 6 months of work. There's not much to learn here for us true fans of the Golden Jet, except for the more sordid allegations about Bobby's personal life and especially his divorce from Joanne Hull. The writer actually relies heavily on old YouTube videos and the rehashing of well established story lines - not more than a person could find out on his own. The book only scratches the surface on one of the most significant angles in the Bobby Hull story: the nefarious Wirtz ownership and how they sought to destroy Bobby Hull. Old William Wirtz and his spoiled punk of a playboy son, Bill Wirtz, stopped at nothing in the 1960's and 70's to maintain the owner's oligarchy and status quo of exploiting the players. Bobby Hull was ten times the man those people were and his battle against their control changed hockey forever. As teammate Stan Mikita said "the day Bobby Hull signed for a million dollars with the WHA, I genuflected towards Winnipeg. My salary doubled the following year." Every single established player in the NHL of 1972 owed Bobby Hull an enormous debt of gratitude, let alone the multi-million dollar stars who followed in later years. Who knows how much longer the owners - the Wirtzes being the worst - would have continued to get away with their antics had not Bobby Hull showed the courage that he did. Don't think it was all that easy for him to walk away from Chicago, even for all that money. Hull knew he'd pay a huge price for his forceful show of independence. Being purposefully left off the Team Canada roster in '72 was just the beginning of it. Bobby Hull did in fact become hockey's lost legend. Too bad Joyce's book misses the mark so badly in telling Hull's real story. We can only wish that the subject of the Golden Jet were put into the hands of a better writer and researcher. If we only had sports journalist and author Stephen Brunt on the job, for example. Please see what may be the best hockey book ever written, Brunt's "Searching for Bobby Orr".

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