I hated Brett Hull.
As a Minnesota North Stars / Dallas Stars fan I hated him because he was playing for a hated division rival in St. Louis and always killed us when the Stars went up against him. As a Canadian I hated him because he was a Canadian born player wearing American colors. I also hated how Hull kept whining and crying every season. What was he crying about exactly? He was scoring goals by the boat load while playing along side one of the NHL's greatest set up men ever in Adam Oates and yet he was complaining? What a brat!
There was nothing redeeming about Brett Hull in my eyes.
And on top of that, the products he endorsed sucked too!
Brett Hull Hockey '95 for the SNES? Worst 50 bucks I ever spent on a hockey game.
The Brett Hull GT Snow Racer? They should have renamed it: Plastic sliding death trap for kids who don't know any better.
And then July 3rd, 1998 happened and everything changed for me, although not right away...
Do ya know that scene in Major League 2 where Jack Parkman hits a home run for the Indians in their first game of the season and Harry Doyle (played masterfully of course by Bob Uecker) states "Ya know I used to hate Parkman when he was with the A's... It's amazing how a new uniform can change your attitude about a guy!" then under his breath mutter the words "He's still a dick!"
That was me for at least the first half of the 98-99 season when it came to Brett Hull.
What can I say? Old habits die hard. I was still kind of in old Norris/Central division mode and my hated rivals were in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, not San Jose, Los Angeles or Phoenix.
Even as he started scoring for the Stars, even as he started forming a very obvious on-ice chemistry with Mike Modano and even as he started defending in his own end of the rink - something I don't recall him ever doing with the Blues - I still had this fear that one night he was bound to rip off his Stars jersey to reveal a St. Louis Bluenote underneath and proceed to score seventeen goals on Eddie Belfour in one period to shatter his confidence for good and then with an evil laugh reveal that it was all a cruel hoax organized by himself, his father Bobby and then Blues GM Ron Caron to cripple the Stars chances at a Stanley Cup.
Ok, so I admit my imagination is guilty of being a little paranoid at times.
Of course, that never happened. This happened instead. So did The Hullenium. He helped get them to another Cup final. The year after that he led the team offensively in a very up-and-down 2000-01 season and all the while those of us who hated the guy as a St. Louis Blue quickly warmed up to him as a Dallas Star.
Even after a stay in Detroit where he won another Cup and then to Phoenix for a brief stop, Stars fans never really stopped cheering for him. At least I didn't and I know others who were the same way. Sure it sucked losing him to a team like Detroit, but never once in the three years he was with the Stars did he ever really give Dallas fans a reason to wish he wasn't a part of the organization.
At least not for me he didn't. Not like the summer of 98 anyway when I truly wondered if I'd ever be able to accept him as a Dallas Star.
After three seasons in Detroit he signed with Phoenix and suddenly he was again part of a division rival.. Only this time he was past his prime and not the threat he was back in the day. Instead of fearing the damage he'd do against the Stars, Dallas fans were kinda rooting for him to have a solid season in Phoenix but sadly it only took five games to realize that father time and losing a year to the lockout was too much for even Brett to overcome.
Funny enough I remember the day he did announce his retirement I started saying to anyone and everyone that the Stars should bring him back for the front office and hoped he'd pass over the Blues and Wings. Again it was a stark contrast to 1998 when it looked like Chicago was a possible destination for the free agent Hull and I would have been more than happy to see him remain on a hated rival team.
Over the last couple of days with this announcement that Brett has made it into the Hockey Hall of Fame, I've asked many different hockey fans and people in the know just what team would they associate Brett with. If the HHOF was like baseball and had each player's plaque show a jersey that would be considered their "primary" team - which team would be shown on Hull's plaque?
Pretty much everyone agreed that if there was a primary team he was associated with, it'd be the St. Louis Blues and for that I can't say I really disagree. For three amazing seasons in Dallas though, he was as true a Star as anyone else on that team and will always hold a special place in our hearts for being the guy who was the final piece of the Stars Stanley Cup puzzle.
Thanks Brett, and congrats on a well deserved Hall of Fame nomination.