Blues honor Hull, retire jersey

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
A teary-eyed Brett Hull saluted the crowd during the ceremony to retire his No. 16 jersey in St. Louis. Hull was honored prior to Tuesday night's game against Detroit. (TOM GANNAM ~ Associated Press)

St. Louis also will name a street after the scoring great.

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues didn't stop at retiring Brett Hull's No. 16 jersey on Tuesday night. They arranged to have his name added to the street bordering their arena.

Just the jersey would have been plenty for Hull, graying at the temples but as captivating as ever during pregame ceremonies. Hull, 42, thanked his enforcers for taking good care of him, admitted to his old coaches that he knew he could be a handful, and even thanked the media while bragging that his exploits certainly made their job easier.

"To have an organization think that much of you is more than one guy can ask," Hull said.

Hull's nickname, "Golden Brett" was a takeoff of father Bobby Hull's moniker, "Golden Jet." The pair are the only father-son combination to each score 600 goals and 1,000 points, and now they're the only father and son to have their jerseys retired in any sport.

The banner with Hull's number was slowly raised to the rafters to a Neil Young rock song with appropriate lyrics: "Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you."

Hull outscored his dad, 741-610. "Brett Hull Way" gave him an honor above the other five players who have had their jerseys retired by the Blues. Bobby Hull's No. 9 was retired by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983.

Adam Oates, with whom Hull enjoyed his greatest success with three seasons of 70, 86 and 72 goals beginning in 1989, was among the 20 former teammates who attended the ceremonies before a Blues-Red Wings game. The current roster all wore No. 16 during warmups, just as they all wore No. 2 during Al MacInnis' jersey retirement ceremony last April.

"Brett, nothing compares to the three years I got to play with you," Oates said. "It was the highlight of my career."

The occasion was momentous enough to bring out both of his wives. Former wife Allison and the couple's three children sat a few seats down from new wife, Darcie. Hull, whose 13-year-old son, Jude, is a goalie, joked that "I wonder where he got his genes."

Chairman David Checketts made honoring Hull, who scored a franchise-record 527 goals in 11 seasons from 1988 to 1998, a top priority when his ownership group took over last summer. He was hopeful that the occasion, which prompted the first sellout crowd of the season for a struggling franchise that often plays to half-capacity or less, would spur the beginning of a revival.

"In terms of bringing this franchise back and reconnecting with the fans, this is a big step," Checketts said before the ceremony. "It's more than just an emotional look at the past, it really is thinking about the future and where do we find the next Brett Hull and where do we find the next player that's going to be a legend in the franchise?"

Hull recalled a fiery dressing-down from Brian Sutter, his first coach with the Blues, as a pivotal time in his career. The rookie said he thought Sutter was going to tell him, "Boy, am I lucky to be coaching you."

"He sat me down and had a half-hour tirade, and I was flabbergasted," Hull said. "I had no idea how good I was, the impact I could have on the game.

"Without that meeting I'm not sure I would be standing here today, and I thank Brian so much for that."

Sutter was briefly a teammate before becoming the Blues coach for the 1988-89 season, and he quickly recognized Hull's talents. He said Hull was the best scorer he has seen in 30 years in the NHL and "maybe the best ever."

"I understood in a heck of a hurry that we were witnessing something that could be really special," Sutter said. "Brett was a unique and very, very special individual.

"You never knew quite what you were going to get or what you were going to hear or what you were going to see."

Brett Hull won two Stanley Cups, one each with the Stars and Red Wings, after leaving St. Louis when the Blues refused to honor his demand for a no-trade contract. He is an assistant to the president of the Stars.

But he said he has always been a Blue.

"From the day I arrived in St. Louis, you made me feel like I was born and raised here," Hull told the crowd. "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to retire here, but I can tell you my heart never left."

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