Bobby Hull, the former Blackhawks star nicknamed the “Golden Jet” with a legacy tarnished by off-ice transgressions, has died, the NHL Alumni Association announced Monday.
He was 84.
Hull remains the Hawks’ all-time leading goal-scorer with 604 goals, accumulated over a 15-year tenure with the team from 1957 to 1972.
His death comes less than a year, however, after the Hawks parted ways with him as a team ambassador.
A native of Point Anne, Ontario, Hull emerged as a star in his third season of 1959-60, tallying 39 goals and 81 points, and never looked back. He broke the 30-goal plateau in 13 consecutive seasons and eclipsed the 50-goal mark five times, including a career-best 58 goals and 107 points in 1968-69.
He played a major role in the Hawks’ 1961 Stanley Cup title, finishing second on the team in scoring in both the regular season and playoffs. He was awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP in both 1965 and 1966.
His jump from the NHL to the World Hockey Association in 1972, signing with the Winnipeg Jets, provided the WHA its first moment of legitimacy. He enjoyed seven productive seasons with the Jets, then came with them back to the NHL in 1979 for a brief final season before retirement.
But Hull’s history of inappropriate off-ice conduct — marked by rampant allegations of domestic abuse and racism — has long overshadowed his on-ice achievements.
Hull was convicted in 1987 of assaulting a police officer who intervened in an argument between Hull and then-wife Deborah. A mini-documentary by ESPN in 2002 included his previous wife, Joanne, recounting a fight in which Hull beat her in the head with a steel-heeled shoe, then held her off a balcony in Hawaii.
Hull’s daughter, Michelle, who became a defense lawyer for female abuse victims, also detailed Hull’s history of alcoholism in that documentary.
In 1997, a Russian publication quoted Hull praising Hitler for “good ideas,” claiming the Black population was growing too fast and expressing support for genetic breeding. Hull denied the comments and sued the publication at the time.
Hull was nonetheless chosen in 2008 to become a Hawks team ambassador alongside Chris Chelios, Denis Savard and the late Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito.
Hull held that role until last season, when he and the Hawks “jointly agreed” he would “retire from any official team role,” the team said in a February 2022 statement.
Hull’s son, Brett Hull, enjoyed an extremely successful NHL career of his own from 1987 to 2006. He’s the Blues’ all-time leading goal-scorer and currently their executive vice president.