A Hockey Life: 'Third Best Hull' gets last laugh

2014-01-12T08:00:00Z A Hockey Life: 'Third Best Hull' gets last laughStephen Lesniewski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 12, 2014 8:00 am  • 

According to Chicago hockey great Dennis Hull, brother of fellow former Blackhawk Bobby Hull, humor is the best sports medicine.

More than 800 guests gathered for the 68th Annual Gary Old Timers Athletic Association Dinner at Avalon Manor in Hobart to honor former Merrillville coach Len Schmidt, Sr. and meet and hear the self-proclaimed 'third best Hull,' Dennis.

"He was kind of like the poor cousin of the Hull family," said Mike Magura, one of the guests in the audience eager to hear what Hull had to say.

"You know his nephew and you know his brother, but you never really think about him too much. But he had a heck of a career with the Blackhawks."

Hull played from 1964-77 on the Chicago Blackhawks, 13 of his 14 years in the NHL, and ranks as the Blackhawks' fifth all-time leading scorer, more than 300 goals behind his brother Bobby with the franchise record.

"Bobby was better than everybody else," Dennis Hull said.

"He wasn't JUST better than me."

Hull, 69, was one of 12 children and the youngest of four boys. When his brother Bobby, now 75, made the NHL roster, Hull looked up to him and followed in his footsteps to the Blackhawks.

"Bobby was one of my childhood heroes. He got me loving hockey," said Eddie Nowak, another audience member who attended Wednesday's dinner to hear Hull.

"Growing up, we always mimicked the Golden Jet aka Bobby Hull and the Silver Jet aka Dennis."

While Dennis is quick to admit he feels he didn't live up to the higher standard his brother created, he still made a name for himself in the NHL. He played in five All-Star games, and, according to him, would have won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the MVP of the NHL playoffs, in 1971 if Hawks had won the Stanley Cup against the Montreal Canadians.

"I sat on the bench and watched Henry Richard skate around with his 11th Stanley Cup. I watched Ken Dryden get the Conn Smythe Trophy and the brand new car that went with it," Hull said during his after-dinner presentation Wednesday.

"My first exhibition game the next year was against the Montreal Canadians. I came out for the warm-ups, and Yvan Cournoyer called me over. He said, 'I have a message for you from Dryden. He says your car is running really good'."

Hull has taken many of his personal experiences from the NHL behind his brother's shadow and began speaking at banquets and other gatherings since the early 1980s.

"It was like having two comedians today," said Dave Pishkur, a committee member for the Gary Old Timers Athletic Association, referring to the entertaining moments shared by guests of honor Schmidt, Sr. and Hull.

"People say you need 20 minutes of laughter a day in your life, and we got it today. Those guys were great."

In addition, to his speaking appearances, Hull has released a new book "The Third Best Hull," which is a revised and extended edition of the 1998 printing of the same title.

The new book is filled with some fantastic new stories and photos said Charlie Stasica, a longtime friend of the Hulls and former hockey coach for the Illinois Institute of Technology where Dennis Hull served as the athletic director after his hockey career.

"The first book wasn't as publicized as much as this one," Stasica said. "When it was first released, the Blackhawks weren't great. Now, after the Cup, anything to do with the Blackhawks, people are buying up. Plus, not many hockey players have written books."

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