The Complete World Hockey Association

Crowds Flock to Hull • by Vic Grant • The Hockey Spectator • November 24, 1972

The cameras whirred, the microphones hummed and the pens were poised ... and out stepped Robert Marvin Hull.

It all happened in Quebec and the excitable French-Canadians were in a frenzy because Hull was in their town when Judge Leon Higginbotham made his historic decision.

Hull was finally a legitimate Jet, not just a facsimile. It was November 8, and it was no longer necessary for the Golden Jet to stand in the wings, out of the limelight.

The World Hockey Association had won its greatest battle. Hull was in the league legitimately now and one wouldn't have been able to write a better script if Hull had stepped out onto the ice at Le Colisee, taken the puck from the opening faceoff, and streaked in to ceremoniously slap the puck by a nervous Serge Aubry, the trembling goaltender.

But, it didn't happen that way. For that matter nothing happened the way it was supposed to for the Jets when they welcomed Hull into the lineup.

The Jets should have won that first Hull game against Quebec Nordiques because they were supposed to. Hockey's greatest player was playing, here was the ultimate, the thing The Jets had been waiting for ever so patiently.

Instead, though, the Nordiques stole all the thunder and Hull was a losing coach and a losing player in his first legal WHA game.

In Quebec City, the Catholic Church comes first, Jean Beliveau comes second, Guy Lafleur third, and then Hull. That's why 10,126 rabid citizens filled Le Colisee and, when you took into consideration the players and the spectators, the only person who wasn't impressed was Yves Bergeron, an obscure youngster on the threshold of establishing a hockey reputation. Aubry was impressed but he wasn't about to let Hull know it.

Even Hull's teammates were overly impressed with his first appearance. In fact, they were so impressed that they forgot to play the game the way they're supposed to.

The Jets have twenty other players on the roster and they all spent the night stargazing. The Jets created a problem for themselves by forgetting their own play and passing the bonus, and the puck, on to Hull.

But, the people and the other Jets were expecting too much, too soon. Not even Bobby Hull can step on a sheet of ice after an eight-month layoff and perform the wizardry which is expected.

Bergeron, the young Nordique, spent the night humming musical bars to the tune of Me and My Shadow. Bergeron was the Shadow and Hull was the Me.

If Hull thought he left that shadow coverage in the other league, Bergeron let it be known he was wrong. Where Hull was, Bergeron was. If the rules permitted it, he likely would have sat on the Jet bench next to Hull. Bergeron's coverage took the shine off a debut, but you can't argue with the results. The Nordiques did win the hockey game.

"My first game, I come out and here I find a guy is following me all over the ice," said Hull, who admitted he was startled to see the shadow method being employed in his opening game.

"I thought we were away from all that stuff. Here we are trying to sell the game and the league. You can't inhibit players. It's guys like Bobby Sheehan who the people are paying to see perform. The people will come out the first time, but if they don't see what they paid to see they won't come back."

"Sure, a coach wants to win, but what's the use of winning if the people aren't there to see it? I will never send an individual out to cover a star one-on-one."

"I couldn't go at a sustained effort in Quebec. Maybe I should have just spotted myself here and there in the lineup instead of stepping right into it. Maybe I was just being selfish wanting to get into the swing of things too fast."

Hull started playing with Chris Bordeleau as his center and Norm Beaudin on the right wing. All they did during the night was try to feed Hull the puck. The pair are the Jets top scorers to this point and they sacrifice their own chances to pass them on to Hull.

"I've got to let them know I want them to play their own game. They don't have to give me the puck if they can do something with it themselves. I could see they weren't playing their own game in Quebec."

Things took a change for the better in Ottawa a night later when the Jets thumped the Nationals, 4-1. But the Jets didn't have to look that good because the Nationals look that bad.

And then, it was back home in Winnipeg and 7,487 patrons showed up with visions of grandeur because this was their first look at their own superstar.

When, if ever, did you expect to see Hull benched?

Hull benched himself late in the second period of the home game against the Minnesota Fighting Saints because once again, the Jets were trying to let Hull do it all.

The Saints won the game, 5-1. The margin was four goals because the Jets, who are deep in the toughest part of their schedule, became leg weary in the third period.

The Jets could have won it in the first two periods but the story was Mike Curran and the same story has been told before.

The outcome may have differed if Hull hadn't hit the post with his first shot in his first Winnipeg game. The Jets pressed, but couldn't get that first goal and the Saints went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.

"I put myself on the bench in the second period because I wanted to see whether it was me out there holding the boys back or what it was."

Hull was back out on the left wing with Bordeleau and Beaudin in the second period. The fact that the Jets scored their only goal of the game while Hull was on the bench is noteworthy.

"I've never gone this long a season without playing a game so I don't really know how long it's going to take before I'm right again," added Hull, squinting out of a puffed eye. "I don't know, I guess we're going from bad to worse, but then the boys are beat. We've been on a hectic schedule don't forget."

Up to that point, the Jets had lost six of their last eight games. The Jets must realize that now that Hull is here, he can't do it all by himself.

He may be able to later in the season, but until the time comes when he's right again, twenty other players have to play their own game.

The famous slap shot isn't right yet, either. In the first game in Quebec, Hull only let loose twice. He used it twice more in Ottawa, and three times in Winnipeg.

That's all a matter of timing, too. You have to put everything together before everything starts to work right.

We have to give the Golden Jet just a little time to become right.



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