Friday, February 19, 2010
On this date in 1989, the Winnipeg Jets retired Bobby Hull's jersey #9.
Hull had been a member of the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL for fifteen seasons when the upstart World Hockey Association came looking for a star player to jump start the league and attempt to buy instant credibility, and found their man in Hull.
Coming off a 50 goal season with Chicago, when Hull jokingly told the WHA he'd jump for a million dollars, the WHA owners and league officials agreed to contribute to the cause and Hull was signed to a ten year, one million dollar contract. The WHA would not last the full ten years.
Once Hull was in the fold, other players soon followed, mainly in search of the higher paychecks offered by the new league, as Gerry Cheevers, Pat Stapleton, Ralph Backstrom, J. C. Tremblay and Rejean Houle also jumped leagues.
Despite an injunction filed by the Black Hawks which kept Hull out of the first 14 games of the 1972-73 season, the damage was done and eventually Hull became a full time Jet and the WHA was off and running.
Hull paid immediate dividends to the league and the Jets, raising the profile of the league and leading the Jets in scoring with 51 goals and 52 assists for 103 points, placing fourth in league scoring as the Jets finished atop the Western Division standings and leading Winnipeg to the Avco Cup Finals. Hull was also named the WHA Most Valuable Player in 1973, but it could be said that he had already earned that distinction by simply signing with the league in the first place!
For the next season, Hull was joined in the league by NHL legend Gordie Howe, who was lured out of retirement in order to play with his sons Mark and Marty in Houston with the Aeros. Hull would top his goal output with 53, but the Jets would drop in the standings and get bounced in the playoffs in four straight by Howe and the Aeros.
The Jets would respond by unleashing the most dynamic line in the history of the league the following season with the arrival of Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg of Sweden.
The trio would light up scoreboards all over the league, with each player topping 100 points, led by Hull's record breaking 77 goals on his way to 142 points and being named the WHA MVP for the second time. His 77 goals were 23 more than his next closest pursuer and broke Phil Esposito's professional mark of 76 in 1970-71. Despite the offensive fireworks, the Jets would somehow fail to qualify for the WHA playoffs.
1975-76 would again see the trio of Hull (53 goals, 123 points), Nilsson (114 pts.) and Hedberg (105 pts.) all top 100 points and the Jets improve 25 points in the standings to capture the Canadian Division title. Once in the playoffs, the Jets would sweep the Edmonton Oilers in 4, oust the Calgary Cowboys in 5 and sweep the Aeros in 4 to capture their first WHA championship and the Avco World Trophy.
Hull was limited to just 34 games of the 1976-77 regular season, scoring 53 points in those games. Nilsson, Hedberg and the remainder of the Jets played well enough in Hull's absence to qualify for the playoffs, and Hull contributed 22 points in 20 games as the Jets returned to the finals to defend their title but lost in seven games to the Quebec Nordiques.
Hull would come roaring back the following season of 1977-78 with a 117 point campaign that included 46 goals as the Jets finished in first place during the regular season of the now failing WHA, which was down to one division of seven clubs after having 12 in the league in the previous season.
The Jets would defeat the Birmingham Bulls in five games to advance to the finals where they would demolish the New England Whalers in four straight games by outscoring the Whalers 24 goals to just 8 to capture their second championship.
Hull was limited to only four games in 1978-79 and played 18 games for the Jets in 1979-80 after their absorption into the NHL before being traded to the Hartford Whalers where he was teamed with Gordie Howe for the final nine games of his career.
Hull would finish his WHA career with 411 games played, 303 goals and 335 assists for 638 points (in essentially six full seasons) and two championships and second in league history for goals scored and third in points.
The Jets would play in the NHL from 1979 to 1996 before relocating to Phoenix, Arizona. Years later his son Brett would be signed by the Coyotes, who un-retired Bobby's #9 so Brett could wear his father's number. Coming after a year off following the NHL lockout season in 2004-05, Hull was no longer up to the task and retired after only playing five games, whereupon #9 was retired once more.
Today's featured jersey is a 1978 WHA All-Star Bobby Hull jersey as worn by Hull in a contest where the defending champion and host Nordiques played a team of WHA All-Stars from the remaining seven clubs, a game won 5-4 by Quebec.
The first three WHA All-Star Games in Quebec, St. Paul and Edmonton were played in the traditional East vs West format before a change to Canada vs. the USA in 1976 for the game in Cleveland.
East vs. West returned for 1977 in Hartford before the 1978 game with the defending champions taking on the All-Stars from the remainder of the league due to the shrinking league's one division format for 1977-78.
In the league's final season, the All-Star festivities featured a team of WHA All-Stars in a three game series versus Dyanamo Moscow from the Soviet Union, which was swept by the WHA with scores of 4-2, 4-2 and 4-3 in Edmonton.
Our first video is a real treat, highlights of a 1972-73 Winnipeg Jets game against the Chicago Cougars, in which Hull scores goals 50 and 51. Take note of the Jets first season uniforms with the original Jets wordmark as the logo, rather than the familiar round logo they would adopt in time for their second season, and the white nameplates with red lettering.
Fast forward to 1975 as Hull, now teamed with Hedberg and Nilsson, scores twice against the Aeros.
Finally, here is an interview with Hull on the occasion of the Jets retiring his jersey #9 in 1989.
Dasherboard: The United States got the job done yesterday against Norway, but took their time getting themselves some much needed extra goals to improve their important tie-breaking goal differential with three goals in the final six minutes of the game. The US now stands with the full 6 points possible after two games with two wins in regulation and a +7 differential.
Switzerland did themselves a mighty favor in the newest, best game of the tournament, by taking Canada all the way to a shootout on the fourth anniversary of their upset over Canada in Torino, Italy. Throughout the third period, we kept wondering where was Paul DiPietro when Switzerland needed him? The point they earned in the standings could be what separates them from teams like Slovakia, Germany and Belarus when it comes time for seeding the teams into the Secondary Round on February 23rd. Switzerland's goal differential now stands at a -3, however we think it's rather unfair to count losing in the shootout as a goal against when figuring out the differential.
By giving away a point in the standings by not winning in regulation, Canada drops back behind the United States in Group A and could find themselves with a tougher opponent later on if they are seeded behind the other two group winners should they beat the United States on the 21st. A win against the US, even in overtime or a shootout on Sunday, would tie them with 7 points and give Canada the group and one of the coveted byes into the quarterfinals, based on their head to head meeting with the US.
Should Canada lose to the United States on Sunday, a bye would seem out of the question, as one would expect at least one of the other second place teams to finish 2-1 with 6 points, a situation which will become clearer by the end of the day tomorrow.
The final game of the day, now the newest, best game of the tournament, was a classic battle between Russia and the underdogs Slovakia. Russian Alexei Morozov from the KHL opened the scoring at 5:32 of the second period and it wasn't until half way through the third period until Marian Hossa evened the score for Slovakia. With neither team able to get the game winner in regulation both teams earned a point in the standings as the very entertaining and well played game moved into overtime, which was a great chess match of offensive lines being countered with defensive units by the other side as each team was given credit for three shots on goal.
The game moved into a shootout to determine who would receive the valuable additional point in the standings and both goalies stood tall, while the players had some difficulty keeping the puck under control at times after three games, two overtimes and now two shootouts having been played on the Canada Hockey Place ice during the day.
Frankly, we would have wet ourselves if asked to face the Russian lineup of shooters, especially with the IIHF provision that shooters can be repeated after the first three have shot. It's bad enough to have to have faced Morozov, Alexander Ovechkin and then Pavel Datsyuk, only to then have to face Ovechkin again with the Russians still having the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Ovechkin once more and then have Evgeni Malkin still in reserve! If the IIHF is so concerned with hits to the head, why aren't they more concerned about that cruel and unusual punishment?
Despite the fact we would have cried in our mask, Jaroslav Halak stood his ground, aided by the bumpy ice surface and Pavol Demitra, who played a terrific game all night long, came in slow and wide to his left, an unusual twist on his wide right tendencies we have grown used to, and out waited Ilya Bryzgalov, who finally moved left with Demitra only to have the Slovak rotate his stick blade and lift a gentle floater past the Russian netminder, which kissed off the right post and into the far left side of the net for the game winner.
The net result on the current standings shows the United States on top with 6 points over Canada's 5 after two games. Russia's point moves them up to 4. Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic all stand at 3 with only one game played and each favored to win today as they look to join the USA at the top of the table.
Slovakia's 2 points push them past Switzerland's 1 from earlier today and put them in a good position for a favorable matchup in the Secondary Round, providing they defeat Latvia on Saturday.
Today's games are Belarus vs. Sweden (MSNBC), the Czech Republic vs. Latvia (CNBC) and the late night game Finland vs. Germany (MSNBC). There's no real standout game in the bunch today. Belarus will be looking to repeat their shocking upset of Sweden in 2002, but don't bet on it. Germany's defensive style should provide a close game with Finland and gets the nod as the game of the day.