Bobby Hull ought to be ashamed of himself.
I mean, okay, he’s having a hissy fit. Most of us have had a hissy fit, or two. But know this about Hull: His is a selective hissy fit, aimed squarely at Good, Ol’ Hometown.
Hull snubbed the inaugural Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame ceremony on Wednesday because, as many of us suspected and as his former linemate Ulf Nilsson confirmed, “he’s upset about some things that are being brought up from the past.” Read: Domestic abuse/violence.
Well, yes, some local media opinionists, bloggers and fans tsk-tsked last summer when the Jets announced a) the creation of their Hall of Fame and b) that Hull, Nilsson and Anders Hedberg were to be enshrined as part of the throw-back hijinx leading to the Heritage Classic on Sunday at a football field-turned-hockey rink in Fort Garry. As I scribbled a month ago, why would Hull want to deal with more of that?
But wait. Upon further review…
Long before Bobby Hull’s likeness was chiseled in stone and plunked outside the United Center in Chicago, media opinionists, bloggers and fans in the Toddlin’ Town brought up his sordid past of whacking women about the ears. Yet the Golden Jet still attended the unveiling ceremony.
Long before Bobby Hull was put on the Chicago Blackhawks payroll as an official ambassador, media opinionists, bloggers and fans in the Windy City brought up his sordid past of whacking women about the ears. They still do. At least one news scavenger has demanded that he be fired. Yet the Golden Jet continues to flit about Chitown, slapping backs, shaking hands and clinking glasses with the rabble.
No matter how damning the dialogue, Bobby Hull didn’t, and doesn’t, hide from Chicago, where he became an underpaid National Hockey League legend.
He just hides from Winnipeg, where, as the World Hockey Association’s marquee player, his bank account became as flush as his face now is.
Think about it. Opinionists in Chicago condemn Hull in the harshest of terms and he soldiers on, smiling and glad-handing. Yet he refuses to show his flushed face in Winnipeg. What, our booze isn’t good enough for him?
If Bobby Hull can gird his loins and stand before the rabble in the Windy City, he could have bloody well done it in River City.
Hull, of course, doesn’t owe the city of Winnipeg anything. His contribution to the birth and growth of professional shinny in Good, Ol’ Hometown is second to only Ben Hatskin’s. But I submit he probably owes Hedberg and Nilsson an apology. He abandoned them.
There the two Swedes sat on Wednesday, side-by-side on a podium, fielding questions from the assembled news snoops. Hedberg, the human lightning bolt of a right winger, looked vibrant, healthy and impeccably attired in a dark suit, crisp blue shirt and a blue tie with white polka dots. The passage of time has been kind to him. Nilsson, the crafty and foxlike centre-ice man, was more grandfatherly and rumpled in an open-collar shirt and drab sports jacket. Clearly, he’s never let success go to his clothes. But his sense of humor is intact. He joked about his new knees and hip replacement.
As they spoke, though, it was impossible to ignore Hull. He was present by his absence.
“Sad,” is what Hedberg said of his Hot Line mate’s snub of the event. “But he is old enough to make his own decision. And it will not destroy our evening, or Winnipeg’s evening. We’re celebrating hockey, and that can be done without whoever. Even Bobby Hull.”
I couldn’t be certain if there was a touch of testiness, bitterness or hurt in his voice.
If anyone is truly out of sorts, I imagine its Jets co-bankroll Mark Chipman and True North Sports & Entertainment, because they’ve done the right thing in linking the present to the past. They looked beyond Hull’s off-ice trespasses and invited him to be central to this week’s celebration, yet he gave them the cold shoulder. He disrespected them. He disrespected Hedberg and Nilsson. He disrespected everyone who’s worn Jets linen. He disrespected the faithful who fawned over him during his six seasons in the WHA and those who stand by him today.
I guess Winnipeg just isn’t Bobby Hull’s kind of town. Maybe it never was. Apparently, Chicago is.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.