An Afternoon With Bobby Hull

Legendary Hall of Famer Bobby Hull tells the story of signing with the Chicago Blackhawks as a 17-year-old.

Last week, 82-year-old Bobby Hull was in town to make his yearly fishing trip at Lake of the Woods.

I’ve been meaning to chat with Hull for a while now in regards to an upcoming book project I’m doing on his late buddy, the four-time Stanley Cup-winning Ab McDonald.

Before he departed back to his home in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Bobby last Thursday afternoon in a board room at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg.

For two hours, the Golden Jet and I chatted about Ab, his own hockey career, and everything under the sun. We had a blast going down memory lane, and I considerably enjoyed the experience of sitting down with one of the game’s all-time greatest players.

For today’s article, here’s Bobby relaying to me the story about how the Chicago Blackhawks signed him to a pro contract at the age of seventeen. Enjoy!

I had never been out of Ontario in my life. I wasn't ready to turn pro as I was only seventeen. I wanted to go to college on some sort of scholarship for football, hockey or baseball. And I was offered a football scholarship to Colorado Springs.

Anyways, I would play football after school, and one Friday night, I didn't get home to my billet until well after 6 pm. And my billet mom met me at the school as their home was just down from the collegiate and said, "You're in big trouble."

Now what have I done!

She said there'd been a guy calling here from 4:15 on every 15 minutes. He says his name is Bob Wilson, Chief Eastern Scout for the Chicago Blackhawks.

I had just sat down for dinner when the telephone rang, and she said, "You better get it because it's going to be for you." It was Wilson.

He said, "Where the hell have you been until six o'clock? Playing football! Don't you know you're supposed to be down at the St. Catharine's Arena getting ready for an exhibition game against the New York Rangers?"

I had no idea, so I rushed and got ready, got tickets for my billets and girlfriend just in time to play this exhibition game against the likes of Andy Bathgate, Harry Howell and Gump Worsley. 

Gump Worsley was in goal for the Rangers. I got lucky and scored two goals. After the game, Tommy Ivan, the Blackhawks general manager, said, "Do you think you can get your parents up here tomorrow?" And I said, "Well, they're 200 miles east of here. My father works shift work and can't just leave the Canada Cement Company at any time."

My parents didn't even have a telephone, so I didn't know if we'd be able to get in touch with them or not. But I knew our neighbour had a phone and had given me the number to call in case anything was wrong. 

So I finally got ahold of my parents, and they were able to meet us for lunch. So Bob Wilson, Tommy Ivan and I all drove together in Wilson's Cadillac the 200 miles from St. Catharines to Point Anne.

I still had no idea why they were doing all of this.

Anyways, we met at the kitchen table and made some small talk until Mr. Ivan said to my dad, "Mr. Hull, how would you feel if we wanted to turn your son pro for $6,500 a year."

My dad jumped up and told him to get the hell out of here. "I don't have $6,500 to give you!"

My mother then reached out and tugged on my dad's leg and said, "I think Mr. Ivan is offering Robert a contract."

My father looked at me and said, "I thought you were going to school." My mother said, "Oh, Robert, it's something you've dreamed about all your life." So I told my dad, "Well, we'll know in a year if I can hack it or not. If not, I can always go back to school."

They agreed, and that's how I ended up in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform!

It should be noted that before he had even reached his teens that Hull was playing alongside his father in a local amateur men’s league. His skills were so impressive that Bob Wilson, the head of scouting for the Blackhawks, signed the twelve-year-old to a contract committing him to the team. That meant that no other NHL team could sign him when it was time to turn professional.

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