Credit Brett Hull with knowing when the time has come. Hull hung up his blades over the weekend, having come to the conclusion that the new NHL was a creature which has passed him by. As Hull put it "the mind was willing, but the body isn't". As the season began, it became apparent that Hull no longer had the wheels to keep up with play, as the new offensive oriented NHL took flight. Imagine his stats had these changes taken place ten years ago. It would have been an amazing sight to see, no clutch and grab, firewagon hockey with Hull as the head fireman!
At an emotional news conference, Hull said his farewells to a game that he loved and one in which he performed to the highest of standards, reaching the number three spot in all time goal scoring. And with a few tears and some rather sage remarks, ends the run of one of the more colourful characters of the NHL.
Hull first made his debut in an NHL uniform in 1986 with the Calgary Flames, at the time he occasionally provided us with glimpses of potential only to be stymied by an occasional lack of a work ethic. A situation that eventually found him out of Alberta and on to America.
Perhaps hindsight in Calgary would suggest that a bit more patience might have gone a long way, for once Hull took his show to the States his legend began to grow. He went on to become one of the main attractions of an NHL which at times seemed to be lacking in showmanship, from St. Louis to Dallas, through Detroit and finishing off with a brief appearance in Phoenix, Hull rewrote record books and spoke out as a conscious for a game that at times seemed to be on the road to ruin.
Outspoken at times, he would from time to time say something that didn't sit well with management or fans for that matter. But what you saw was what you got. A straight shooter (and what a shot eh) who wasn't afraid to speak out, when so many others hid behind the old I was misquoted line.
He earned a bit of animosity from his Canadian fans when he chose to join the Team USA group for world competitions, a situation that went back to his first Team Canada camp when he was unceremoniously told he wasn't wanted. A slight that was never forgotten, Hull in a USA uniform gave more than a bit of credibility to the International aspirations of American Hockey. But perhaps his choice was one of the best things for the game in the still troubled American markets.
At 41, Hull has played a lot of hockey. 1,269 regular season games, 202 playoff contests and countless International matchups. His regular season totals give you an idea about how important he was to his various teams. 741 goals, 650 assists for a total of 1,391 points. Shot totals of 4,876. A performer equally at home on the power play (265 goals) or defending a short handed situation (Short handed goals 20)
The playoffs also gave him the opportunity to shine, 103 goals, 87 assists for 190 playoff points, 784 shots fired for potential game winning situations. A deadly sniper who could end a series with just one shot.
The accolades have been pouring in over the weekend ever since he announced his retirement and most seem to have discovered the talent that was Hull. The true testament to his value to the NHL is the fact that despite having one of the most famous fathers in NHL history, Brett is honored now on his own accomplishments. His father's name merely a passing note in the flood of articles about his storied career.
Brett Hull became his own man in the NHL and now takes his leave from a game that finally seems to be adapting many of the nuances that he had so long clamored for. Beyond his many scoring achievements over the years, Hull's best contribution may have been to make the NHL stand up and take notice about a game that was on a trip to nowhere.
Hopefully as he takes off the skates for the final time there will still be a place for him somewhere in the NHL family. Television would be a natural for the opinionated and thoughtful mind of Brett Hull. Perhaps the league can put him to work examining their latest rule changes and how to make the game even better. It would be a natural fit for a guy that lobbied for change for so long. If nothing else, I'm sure there are hundreds if not thousands of Old Timer rec league teams that might let him suit up from time to time!
It was a hull of a run for Brett, but all good things truly do come to an end. The skates may be off for good, but here's hoping he still hangs around the rink for many years to come.