"You wouldn't do that to me in front of all these people," Hull responded.

"When Brett Hull leaves a message, that person is probably going to call back."

A second later Hull was laid out on the floor.

"Everyone in the bar was expecting a big brawl to break out, but Brett laughed, got up and we carried on," Butcher says.

In 1997 Hull entered his last year as a player for the Blues.
Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo service/newscom
In 1997 Hull entered his last year as a player for the Blues.

"We just wanted to be around the community," says Chase of those days. "We'd go to a bar in south county one night, a bar in Wentzville another night. It wasn't like we had our haunts and that's it. We loved it here."

The merriment came to an end in 1998 when the Blues refused to fork over enough to resign their superstar, who had also gained a reputation for being something of a prima donna — riding his teammates and publicly criticizing the Blues management.

"They didn't want me back," Hull said in an interview shortly after the 1997-1998 season. "A player such as myself, you just get the deal done. You don't play games."

When the Blues balked, Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks doubled down, offering Hull a three-year, $17 million contract — good enough to make him among the highest-paid players in the league even though he was in the twilight of his playing career.

Loaded with talent and money, the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999, with Hull scoring the series-clinching goal in double overtime of Game 6 against Buffalo.

When his contract with the Stars expired in 2001, Hull signed a two-year, $9 million contract to play for the Detroit Red Wings and one of the best ensembles of players in league history, with players such as Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman and Dominik Hasek. With such a talented supporting cast, Hull averaged 30 goals a season despite being in his late thirties and won another Stanley Cup in 2002.

In 2004 Hull signed with the Phoenix Coyotes to play under head coach Wayne Gretzky. It was supposed to be a nostalgic affair, with Hull playing for a close friend and former Blues teammate in Gretzky while wearing his father Bobby's No. 9 jersey. The elder Hull played for the Winnipeg Jets in the '70s, but the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996 and kept the number retired until he requested that it be temporarily unretired for his son.

Yet Hull played only five games for the Coyotes. He hadn't kept in shape during the 2004-2005 lockout and arrived at training camp overweight. Being 41 years old didn't help, either. It was time to hang up the skates.

"I wish no one had to do this because it's so hard," said Hull at the press conference announcing his retirement. "It's hard because you never think you're going to grow older and be unable to live up to the expectations you set for yourself."

Despite achieving statistical greatness, two Stanley Cups and amassing more than $50 million in salary over his career, Hull couldn't stay away from the game for long and almost immediately jumped into nonplaying roles in the league.

But could Hull in a suit ever be as glorious as Hull on ice?

Brett Hull seemed a perfect fit as a hockey analyst when NBC Sports came calling for the 2006-2007 season. The former player, who a few years later would be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame, loved the camera and was not afraid to speak his mind. But his brief tenure turned rocky when he reportedly complained about not getting enough air time and passionately argued in favor of fighting in hockey, a somewhat controversial stance to have for a network commentator.

After a year Hull left NBC to take a front office job in his adopted hometown of Dallas. He co-owned a restaurant there with fellow NHL star Mike Modano, and Hull's wife, Darcie Schollmeyer, grew up in nearby Grapevine. Besides, Hull was also already unofficially working for the Stars as a "community relations ambassador," a position that raised conflict-of-interest concerns with the network.

In his new role with the Stars, Hull branded himself the team's "Ambassador of Fun" and set about trying to reenergize the fan base that had begun losing interest in the team. Hull would meet with season-ticket holders, do TV appearances during games and, most famously, appear in Stars commercials where he struts through the front offices, urging fans to buy tickets as he bumps fists with the team's mascot and gives an approving "Ladies!" to a pair of cheerleaders.

The glad-handing failed to increase attendance at the American Airlines Center, but Hull ended up contributing to the team in a different way. After a rough start to the 2007-2008 season, the Stars made Hull co-general manager, a title he shared with the team's director of scouting and player development, Les Jackson.

Many hockey observers were skeptical. For one, a team having two general managers is unheard of. There was also this: Hull had no experience in the tedious and oftentimes unglamorous role of scouting. But the Stars did well that season. The team turned things around and made the playoffs, advancing to the Western Conference finals before getting knocked out by the Detroit Red Wings. The Hull-Jackson pairing was credited with making some powerful trades, including the acquisition of center Brad Richards from Tampa Bay. The experiment seemed to be working. That is, until Hull made a big mistake. He insisted on the signing of Sean Avery — perhaps the most hated player in the NHL— to an inflated four-year, $15.5 million contract.

« Previous Page
Next Page »