AS I SEE IT COLUMN: Bobby Hull, the Avco Cup, the Hot Line, my dad and me


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Hockey fans that are old enough to remember Bobby Hull will have their own personal story about the Golden Jet. This is one of mine:

When the World Hockey Association (WHA) was formed in 1972 my dad had the prescient thought that it could one day merge with the NHL, so he got season tickets. (Little did we know that the WHA hockey would be vastly superior to NHL hockey.)

One of the perks of being a season ticket holder was getting to skate with the Jets. At that skate my dad took a picture of me with Bobby Hull that is one of my personal treasures.

Fast forward a few years and when Bobby was teamed up with Swedes Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg, the Hot Line – one of the best lines the sport of hockey has ever or will ever see – was born.

The Swedes enjoyed so much success that they were eventually signed by the New York Rangers, before the end of the 1978 season. The 1978 Avco championship would be their swan song with the Jets.

My mom and dad got that 1972 photo blown up into a poster and six years later dad insisted we bring that poster to the final Jets game with Hull, Nilsson and Hedberg. I remember being kind of embarrassed carrying this huge black garbage back with my framed poster inside. Dad took me to the Jets dressing room before the game and knocked on the door.

A trainer opened the door and dad explained the story from 1972 and that he hoped the Hot Line could sign it before Ulf and Anders left for New York. The trainer said something like: “We’re getting ready to try and win a championship. Come back after the game.”

The Jets won that highly emotional game. Manitobans knew that even though the WHA didn’t get any respect from the NHL or the media, that we had been fortunate enough to see one of the greatest lines – the perfect combination of speed, strength and skill – in the history of hockey. It was heartbreaking to see them go.

After the game dad said “let’s go to the dressing room.” They just won the Avco Cup. There’s no way on earth they’ll let us in, I thought to myself.

But dad knocked on the door and the hockey gods smiled on us at that moment – the same trainer opened it. To my utter astonishment, he invited us in. He didn’t bring us to some side room, he brought us right into the dressing room. Guys were drinking champagne out of the Avco Cup, spraying champagne on each other and Hedberg was walking around the dressing room capturing all this magic on a video camera.

And there, in the middle of all that joy and celebration, was me and my dad amongst the players we had followed closely for years. We could not believe – I still cannot believe – that we were brought into the dressing room. The media wasn’t even invited, but somehow dad and I were right there, enjoying the moment and the unbelievable access we were given, but sad that this was the end of the Hot Line.

Bobby, Anders and Ulf signed my poster and we stayed in the dressing room for a long, glorious time, in blissful disbelief of what we were experiencing.

It was beyond a special memory. It was a memory that me and dad talked about and reminisced about often over the intervening decades.

I was a snot-nosed 8-year-old embarrassed by my dad trying to get into the Jets’ dressing room. And now, thanks entirely to my dad, I have a treasured keepsake, a visceral reminder of an incredible moment shared by a father and his son.

Thank you dad for that precious and priceless memory.

Bobby Hull was a controversial figure off the ice, but his impact on hockey in Manitoba can never be overstated. Simply put, without Bobby Hull there would be no Jets 2.0, no Dale Hawerchuk, no Teemu Selanne, no NHL. Anything great hockey-wise that happened here since 1972 and anything great that happens in the future is directly attributable to Robert Marvin Hull.

Rest in peace Bobby.

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