by Curtis J Phillips
“Let’s make sure it’s not another 40 years until we talk again,” said Bobby Hull while we shook hands last Thursday afternoon.
Hockey legend Bobby Hull along with hockey luminary Gerry Cheevers, Yvan Cournoyer, Marcel Dionne, Brad Park and Darryl Sittler were in town for the annual One-on-One fundraiser for Keyano College Huskies Athletics.
Each was representing one of the original six NHL hockey teams: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Of the six men, all but Hull had been to Fort McMurray before.
I recalled with Dionne his planting a pie of shaving cream in my face during an Oldtimers charity hockey game the early 1990s and Cournoyer signing an autograph for my son in another time the Oldtimers dropped by.
The last time though I had had the opportunity to grab some quotes from Hull – the Golden Jet – was nearly 40 years ago, when he was a superstar with the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association back in my hometown.
Asked of his time in Winnipeg, Hull reminisced: “Just being able to bring hockey to the smaller centres in Canada and the United States and the ability to give more kids a chance to achieve their goals to become professionals and to become all stars and become hall of famers… was great. And being able to amalgamate the European system with the Canadian.”
Hull’s line on the Jets also consisted of Swedish forwards Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson.
“If it wasn’t for the Jets I think the WHA would have folded earlier (WHA was in operation 1972-1979).”
Prior to the media interviews, a group of 12 local minor hockey league coaches had the opportunity to ask questions of the legends for 45 minutes pertaining to the role of a minor hockey coach.
Dionne summed it up with one answer: “If you or the kids don’t have fun, you are never going to win.”
Later in the evening at the dinner and hot stove talk, held at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre (SSWC), Hull earned a standing ovation when he spoke eloquently of the recent death of Hockey Hall of Fame member and 10 time Stanley Cup Canadiens icon Jean Béliveau.
Hull, 76, emotionally elaborated on how unfair it was that such sportsman and true gentlemen like Béliveau, who had had a series of health issues, should have to go through so much distress instead of dying peacefully.
Asked who had the hardest shot in hockey during his playing days, Cheevers, a two time Stanley Cup champion goalie joked: “It was Dennis Hull (Bobby’s younger brother) not Bobby because Dennis’ shots hit me and Bobby’s shots always scored on me.”
Of his 10 NHL championship rings with the Canadiens, Cournoyer was humble: “Very lucky to be there at the right time. I played with the old guys for my first five (Stanley Cups) and with the new guys for the last five (Stanley Cups).”
Each legend had an auction package in their name with autographed sweaters, pucks and sticks and Hull’s reached the highest with a bid of $6,900.
Emcee for the One of One evening was Wade Kolmel, Sport & Wellness Director at Keyano College.
A man of many hats, Wade is also president of the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (WBSHF).
The WBSHF Class of 2015 dinner is set for June 18, 2015 at the SSWC with four inductees to be named in the next few weeks. Guest speaker this year is popular hockey announcer Jim Ralph.
“Jim Ralph is one of the most entertaining personalities in Canadian media,” says Kolmel. “We’re excited to hear him speak and help celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our Class of 2015 inductees. It promises to be a great night.”
Catch you on the rebound.