Book Review: The Devil and Bobby Hull

| October 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

There is no question that Gare Joyce is one of the best hockey scribes in the industry.  There is also no question that Bobby Hull was one of the best hockey players to grace a sheet of ice.  This recent book released by Wiley Publishing merges the two men together in an excellent account of Hull’s hockey life, both on and off the ice.

Based on endless research and a personal interview at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant , Joyce pulls no punches with this unauthorized book.  Throughout  the book, Hull is framed as both a very impressive hockey player as well as a leader for the future of how owners will treat players in the National Hockey League.  Hull is also shown to be an aggressive and abusive family man, with several accounts of domestic violence scattered within the chapters.

Hull Brought the Jets To Winnipeg

One piece of history that was made abundantly clear in this book was that the Winnipeg Jets would never have existed without Bobby Hull. In fact, it is quite possible that the entire World Hockey Association (WHA) would have never come to fruition if it were not for the commitment of Bobby Hull to the Winnipeg Jets and to the league in general.

Yes, the Winnipeg Jets (funded by other WHA owners) signed a million dollar check to get Bobby Hull to commit. However, Hull also led the way in terms of player contracts and the abolishment of the “reserve clause”. The reserve clause was a component that was a part of each NHL players contract that stipulated a player could be retained by his team with a “salary to be determined later”. Of course, we know that in contract law it is impossible to have a binding legal contract when the pertinent details of said contract are not clearly defined.

The successful challenge of the reserve clause allowed several former NHL players to make the leap to the WHA and earn a living playing the game that they love.  Hull’s move to the World Hockey Association did not come without consequences, however. Hull was not selected as a member of the famed Canadian team that took on the Soviets in the 1972 Summit Series solely due to his not playing in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Physicality, Strength and Endurance

Even those of us too young to have seen Bobby Hull play in person have heard the stories of his blood curdling slapshots. Joyce reaffirms, on several occasions, just how physically strong Bobby Hull was. In several instances, Joyce cited Hull’s former teammates accounts of his physical superiority to his peers. Many of Hull’s former teammates recalled instances of near super-human strength, including fights against some of the league’s toughest customers – like John Ferguson.

It was also noted that while Hull was a physically superior player, he did not player mean or dirty like Gordie Howe and some of the other heroes of the day.  In fact, some of Hull’s former teammates felt that opponents took advantage of Hull’s sportsmanlike demeanor, taking cheap shots at the superstar in an attempt to get him off of his game.

Book Recommendation

All in all, this book deserves a read by any hockey fan.  As a hockey fan that was too young to witness Boby Hull on the ice, the book gives a great account of his dominance as a player.  Hull’s reputation as an abusive husband and father is not shied away from in this book.

Joyce’s personal interview with Hull also leads him to believe that he might be suffering the effects of a hard fought hockey career, including symptoms of brain damage from head trauma.

If you’re a hockey fan, particularly a Winnipeg Jets fan, I think it is important that you read this book to fully appreciate and understand what Bobby Hull contributed to the future of the game.

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