One of hockey’s greatest legends decided not to go attend a ceremony celebrating his career, as Bobby Hull skipped out on his jersey retirement by the Winnipeg Jets this week. Hull and his teammates from the 1970’s “Hot Line”, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, were the inaugural class inducted into the Jets Hall of Fame, and the trio had their jerseys raised into the rafters at MTS Centre. To the surprise of many, Hull wasn’t there to see it.
Others were not as surprised. The 77-year-old Hull has somewhat of a dark personal history since his playing days ended. Allegations of domestic abuse emerged not long after he retired, claiming that both during and after his career he threatened his now ex-wife with bodily harm. Hull has also made comments over the years that were blatantly racist and anti-Semitic. There is always an issue in sports as to where to draw the line between player and person. When Hull was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 without much worry over his personal life, and his public support of son Brett Hull was rarely met with public comment or further inquiry as well. Since the Hull family has left the NHL though, the lack of hockey relevance for Bobby has led to more focus on his past words and actions, creating a large population of fans who are now disgusted by a player they once revered.
Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that as a player, Bobby Hull has earned his spot in Winnipeg Jets history. No player had a greater impact on the establishment of the team, and on the World Hockey Association altogether, than Hull. Fans from his playing days in both Winnipeg and Chicago will always remember Hull as a champion, All-Star, and all-around legend on the ice. However, as time passes and fewer fans from 60’s and 70’s remain, Hull will not be able to escape his negative past if he chooses to expose himself to the spotlight of the hockey world. Likely looking to stay irrelevant and to avoid further damage to his tarnished reputation and legacy, Hull did not attend his own ceremony last night. For many reasons and for many people, it is a sad situation.