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Who was the Ovechkin of yesteryear? Chicago legend Bobby Hull

Any present-day hockey fan knows all he or she needs to know about Alexander Ovechkin.

Washington’s power forward plays at a fast pace, hits hard, scores goals of all descriptions with a baffling array of skills. He is passionate and just loves to compete and play the game.

Watching Ovechkin of late nudged me to consider whether I’ve ever seen a player who, even in a broad sense, reminded me of him.

The first name that comes to mind is that of Gilbert Perreault who was, for my money, the most dynamic player of the 1970s. He was extraordinarily fast and skilled. He didn’t have Ovechkin’s edginess but was an absolute treat to watch.

That said, the guy who really had a lot of Ovechkin’s qualities was long-time Blackhawk star, left-winger Bobby Hull.

For his day, Hull had size—at 195 pounds—and was tremendously strong. Raised near Belleville, Ontario, Hull became strong naturally the old-fashioned way—working on his Dad’s family farm. (Hull pictured at right very early in his career in game action from the late 1950s, scoring against Toronto’s Eddie Chadwick.)

Hull joined the NHL when he was only 18, after having played junior hockey in St. Catharines. He helped turn a sub-par Black Hawk team in the late ‘50s into a Stanley Cup champion by the spring of 1961. There were other outstanding contributors—Pierre Pilotte, Dollard St. Laurent, Bill Hay, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, ex-Leaf Tod Sloan, Eddie Litzenberger and Moose Vasko among them—but Hull was the guy every team had to try and contain. Before Phil Esposito and later Wayne Gretzky shattered his single-season goal scoring records, it was Hull who surpassed Rocket Richard’s record of 50 goals in a season. Hull did it three times during the 1960s, including his 58 goal season in 1968-’69.

He was one of those rare players who could swoop in behind his own net and make a rink-long dash with the puck at high speed. He didn’t usually succeed, but he did often enough that you never knew what would happen.

He could bull-rush his way around even the most skilled defensemen and like Richard before him, would cut in front of the bet, make a deke and beat the goaltender from in close. Of course, older hockey fans know he also had a wicked slap shot, probably the hardest shot of his era. He was helped by being one of the first guys to successfully utilize the so-called “curved” blade.

He didn’t score some of those “sliding along the ice, twisting and backhanding the puck in” types of goals, but otherwise he was very much like Ovechkin—a great skater, extremely powerful, a guy who could hit, make plays and even fight if necessary.

I’ve posted on Hull in the past, and will again in future, but watching the current Washington superstar lately triggered memories of the outstanding Chicago (and later Winnipeg Jet in the WHA) Hall-of-Famer.

No two players are ever quite the same. Ovechkin is one-of-a-kind- and so was Bobby Hull.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed on Gil Perreault. He and Guy Lafleur were the most electrifying players I remember watching in the '70s (and Bobby Orr, although I only remember watching him in the '76 Canada Cup when he was literally on his last legs). Every time Perreault touched the puck it seemed the crowd held its breath wondering what he would do next. Awesome player.