Tributes are pouring in from the sports world for the late Bobby Hull.
The Hockey Hall of Famer dubbed the “Golden Jet” died Monday at the age of 84.
“He was probably the original power forward,” said longtime Edmonton Oilers’ captain Al Hamilton, who played against Hull both in the NHL and the now-defunct World Hockey Association.
“He attacked with such speed. He had the big shot, and with the advent of the curve in the sticks, his shot became even more unpredictable and frightening for us defencemen.”
Read more: ‘Golden Jet’ Bobby Hull dies at 84
But aside from the 913 goals and 1,808 points Hull put up as a player in the NHL and WHA, Hamilton said he remembers him for what he did for the game off the ice.
Hull was one of the key figures to play in the WHA when that league started in 1972. Hull signed a huge contract to join the Winnipeg Jets — a contract that made him the first hockey player to sign a deal worth a million dollars.
“He absolutely gave legitimacy to the WHA,” said Hamilton, who was an established NHL player for the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, before well-known Edmonton sports figure and businessman Bill Hunter offered him a contract to play for the Alberta Oilers in the new league.
“They sold us on the idea this could be a legitimate league, and (Hull) was a very important part of opening the door for all of us.
“We weren’t making any money. (The NHL) had kind of a captive market and we really didn’t have any power to change too many things, so when Bobby jumped there, that kind of became an eye opener for all of us.
“Bill Hunter in Edmonton came knocking on my door not too long after and sold us a dream that we were going up against the National Hockey League, which was long-established, and this was a brand new venture.”
After learning of Hull’s death, Hamilton fondly recalled his days in the WHA and playing alongside Hull as a member of Team Canada in the 1974 Summit Series.
Like the more well-known ’72 series, the 1974 version of Canada’s best against the Soviets’ best included eight games between the powerhouse hockey countries, but only featured WHA players. Hull and others were not allowed to participate in 1972 after choosing to play in the WHA.
Hamilton and Hull played all seven seasons of the WHA’s existence, before the last of its teams – the Oilers, Jets, Quebec Nordiques and New England Whalers – became members of the NHL under a merger with the WHA.
–With files from Brent Pushkarenko, 630 CHED