Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sticking it to the Opposition

When I saw this vintage ad for Northland hockey sticks, one player popped into my thought process - Bobby Hull.

To this day, the image of Hull gaining speed from deep inside his own zone, then unloading a wicked blast, is embedded in my mind. As a youngster, it captivated my imagination. Looking back, it was my expectation that Hull might mortally wound a poor goalie, who was just trying to do his job!

For goalies in the Original Six era and beyond, it was a nightmare.

In his autobiography, Johnny Bower wrote, "facing Bobby Hull, let me tell you, it was scary no doubt about that."

"He had about the hardest shot in the National Hockey League as far as I'm concerned," noted the Hall of Fame goalkeeper for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"When he would wind up with that warped stick of his, look out. He had such good control of that stick, and there was no whip in it. It was hard as a rock. Just like a stiff golf club," wrote Bower in The China Wall - The Timeless Legend of Johnny Bower - with Bob Duff.

For hockey fans, it was a sight to behold. A Bobby Hull rush could bring the crowd out of their seats. The anticipation of what he was going to do with the puck, would keep them standing, holding their breath until it was time to exhale.

"Of all the shots in a hockey game, the one best loved by the fans and dreaded most by goalkeepers is the slap shot, " wrote Hull in his 1967 autobiography (Hockey Is My Game with Jim Hunt).

"The goalkeeper can see even less of it, because it's coming straight towards him. Usually the only chance a netminder has to stop a slap shot is by getting his pad in front of it, and I have heard at least one say that even through his pads the puck had a bite of a branding iron," noted Hull in another passage.

"Any player with experience will usually know the first time he uses a stick whether or not it suites him," the Golden Jet advised his young readers.

For Bobby Hull, his weapon of choice was the Northland Custom Pro.

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