The Golden Jet left a huge legacy in St. Catharines junior hockey
Published January 30, 2023 at 3:37 pm
The death of hockey legend Bobby Hull today (Jan. 20) will leave something of a hole in the ranks of St. Catharine junior hockey lore.
For all his flaws as a person – and let’s not mince words, they were numerous and reprehensible – Hull was hockey royalty, the first pro to score 50 goals in one season, as well as kind to a fault for any child wanting an autograph or fan wanting a story.
However, as a member of the former St. Catharines Teepees, he and teammates Pierre Pilote and Stan Mikita’s graduation to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1957 and 1958 saw the big league team win a Stanley Cup in 1961 when the trio were barely off the ice at Garden City Arena in St. Catharines
The three and another former team member, Phil Esposito, remain the former Teepees that now reside in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Predeceased by Mikita in August 2018 and Pilote in Sept. 2017, Hull, nicknamed “The Golden Jet”, harkens back to the glory years of the Original Six NHL teams.
But the Mikita-Hull tandem started as an athletic duo before the Teepees as the pair played high school football together in St. Catharines.
“He was a halfback and I was sort of a flanker back,” Mikita told the Chicago Tribune in 1991. “Even in football, the way we played the game was completely different. I’d try to run around the guy where Bobby would try to run over him.”
The sheer number of Teepees graduates that made the pros has many asking if the St Catharines OHA Jr. A team was the greatest feeder squad ever for producing NHL stars in the 1960s and 1970s?
A case can certainly be made for it. The team, which ran from 1947 to 1962, sent 54 of its players to the NHL during its existence.
Bobby Hull, goalie Tony Esposito and Stan Mikita in the Blackhawks dressing room, circa 1970.
Off the ice, however, Hull was more infamous than famous with allegations of physical and emotional abuse coming from three ex-wives.
Beyond that, he had extreme political views, some of which could make even Don Cherry wince. He once told a Russian newspaper that Nazis were not without merit, that the black population in the U.S. was growing too fast and that genetic breeding was a worthy idea. All of these views are, of course, talking points for white supremacy.
“Hitler, for example, had some good ideas,” he told the Moscow Times. “He just went a bit too far.”
He also took aim at the Canadian government, calling it too left-wing and complaining about giving welfare payments to “people who don’t deserve them.”
However, when Hull died at his home in Wheaton, Illinois at the age of 84, it is likely than he’ll be far more remembered for being a hockey original. The first player to use a curved blade, Hull would help the fledgling WHA get on its feet in 1972 by signing hockey’s first $1 million deal with the Winnipeg Jets.
And no, for the record, they weren’t named after him.
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