Whenever I see any news about the Chicago Blackhawks I am reminded of my favorite player growing up. While seemingly everyone in and around Chicago was rooting for "The Golden Jet", I was quietly hoping his brother Dennis, known as "The Silver Jet" (surprise, surprise) would become the Hawk's best player.
Dennis William Hull was born on November 19, 1944 in Pointe Anne, Ontario. And since his brother was 10 years older than him and played hockey, it was a given that Dennis would too.
In the 1960-'61 season Dennis was playing for the St. Catherines Teepees in the Ontario Junior Hockey League when the Chicago Blackhawks began making plans to sponsor the team. And so in 1962 Dennis became a St. Catherines Black Hawk (yes Blackhawk was two words back then).
He made the Chicago roster in 1964 and scored 10 goals in his rookie campaign. The following year he played mostly in the minors but did see action for the Blackhawks in 25 games.
In the 1966-'67 season Hull broke out with 25 goals and 42 points while playing in all 70 games. And two seasons later he registered his first 30 goal season. But as Dennis was coming into his own, it was still Bobby's team. The "Golden Jet" was in his 12th year at this point, having had ten seasons of 30 or more goals, and scored a NHL record 58 goals in Dennis' first 30 goal year.
That was the life of the young Dennis Hull, living in his big brothers shadow. But it never seemed to affect his play. In the 1970-'71 season he nearly caught his brother in goals, scoring 40 to Bobby's 44. The team also excelled that year making the Stanley Cup finals before succumbing to the Montreal Canadiens. This was also the first year Dennis began playing on the same line with Pit Martin and Jim Pappin. It soon became known famously as the "MPH" line.
1971-'72 was the final year that Dennis and Bobby Hull were teammates. The following year the upstart World Hockey Association wooed Bobby away from the NHL with a million dollar contract. Fortunately it had little impact on Dennis and the team.
The 1972-'73 NHL season would turn out to be Dennis' best scoring year by far. He had 39 goals and 51 assists for 90 total points. It was also another great year for the Blackhawks team as they made the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Canadiens once again.
So Dennis Hull finished his career with the Hawks with 298 goals and 342 assists for 640 points and two Finals appearances. He is also the reason, along with Bobby, that I am a hockey fan today.
After retiring from hockey Dennis spent time as an educator, and spent more than a decade as the athletic director for a university in Chicago. Today he spends much of his time on his farm in Ontario, just east of Toronto and has become a public speaker.
He is also an author, having written the book "The third best Hull (I would have been the fourth but my sister Maxine wasn't allowed to play)." In fact the one and only Mr. Hockey, the great Gordie Howe is quoted as saying "Without a doubt Dennis is one of the most talented speakers and comedians in all of sports. He was a natural on the ice and he is a natural on the stage."
By the way, the term third best Hull refers of course to his standing, at least in hockey's statistical terms, behind his brother Bobby, and Bobby's son Brett; A great player in his own right. In fact Bobby and Brett were the first father and son ever to each be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As a public speaker Dennis relies on a multitude of stories and anecdotes from his playing days and after. His self-deprecating style has become one of his trademarks and he is now one of the most sought after head table guests in the entire business.
Perhaps Mr. Howe said it best when he said " There are two superstars in the Hull family. Bobby the hockey player and Dennis the after dinner speaker".
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