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Two Minutes for Booking: The Devil and Bobby Hull

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Courtesy of Wiley & Sons

By Stu Hackel

If hockey ever produced a cautionary tale, it’s the life of Bobby Hull. That tale, and not merely recounting Hull’s on-ice exploits, is the approach taken by award-winning Toronto author Gare Joyce in his excellent new book, The Devil and Bobby Hull (John Wiley & Sons, 274 pages).

Hull was hockey’s biggest attraction in the waning days of the Original Six era, more charismatic than the laconic Gordie Howe, flashier than the decorous Jean Beliveau. In his day, he was King of the Ice ( to borrow the honorific crown conjured up by the late Paul Quarrington in his great 1988 hockey novel, King Leary). Hull’s reign was wedged between those of Rocket Richard and Bobby Orr, although he was hardly in decline during Orr’s peak. He was not only the NHL’s top goal scorer — the first NHLer to break the 50-goal barrier in a season — but also it’s most explosive, visible and marketable player.

Five times a Sports Illustrated cover subject — unprecedented for an NHL player of that time – Hull’s stardom transcended the game, and through his numerous endorsements, which doubled his Black Hawks salary, Gare establishes that he became the first hockey figure to gain continent-wide recognition and was the impetus for the league’s first great expansion in 1967.

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  • Published On Nov 18, 2011
  • Isles nix brawl game for viewing party

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    Lost in the chaos of Feb. 11 was Michael Grabner becoming one of three Islanders to hit the 20-goal mark that night and the team scoring nine goals for the first time since 2003. (Mark Lenihan/AP Photos)

    By Stu Hackel

    In a sign that intelligent life exists on Earth, the Islanders have changed their plan to rebroadcast their infamous brawl-filled Feb. 11 game against the Penguins at a fan viewing party scheduled for this Friday.

    SI.com has learned that the party will go on, but the Islanders and MSG Network have agreed to switch the game to a victory over the Sabres in which Michael Grabner’s hat trick goal was the winner.

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  • Published On Aug 18, 2011
  • Penguins’ reaction may be Matt Cooke’s strongest punishment

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    By Stu Hackel

    So many people are debating how long Matt Cooke should be suspended today for his gratuitous elbow (above) to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh that you wonder if the NHL is passing up a great revenue opportunity. Why not license some wagering interest in Las Vegas to take over/under bets on the number of games for each supplementary discipline case that goes in front of Hockey Operations? Part of the league’s cut of the handle could go to the bottom line, part into the Players Emergency Fund along with the perpetrator’s lost salary, and that way, fans and the media can be a valuable part of the disciplinary process.

    Wisecracks aside, the sad fact is that regardless of how long Cooke is banned — and it will likely be for a while — NHL players have not yet gotten the message that this sort of on-ice behavior is unacceptable. Maybe they will next season, if and when the suspensions get longer. But not today.

    UPDATE: Cooke was suspended for the remainder of the regular season, 10 games, and the first round of the playoffs.

    And, yet, maybe more is needed besides increased fines, suspensions and loss of pay.
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  • Published On Mar 21, 2011
  • A day of change for an embattled league

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    By Stu Hackel

    Say this for the NHL: This league can, at times, respond to the problems it faces with some degree of swiftness and decisiveness. The image of the league — which is well-earned and still deserved in some instances (like 15 years to rid the rinks of seamless glass)– is one of an organization that changes at a glacial speed. But the GM’s have met, discussed and deliberated some serious issues this week against the backdrop of a few truly harrowing incidents in the past few months. At times, those incidents made the game seem out of control, and the GMs recognized areas that needed to be fixed and have begun the process of fixing them.

    They were able to do so because of some internal help — the Hockey Operations Department seems again to have gathered relevant statistics, video and other evidence to crystallize the issues, and influential owners have gotten involved. There has also been some external help — the scientific evidence of progressive brain disease in former enforcers, as well as reaction by fans, media and, for the first time, sponsors to some of the worst situations the NHL has witnessed in a while.

    Some of the changes being proposed this week in Boca Raton have been in the works for quite a while. A few have been more immediate responses to newer events. But if the league was hoping to answer its critics and allay the fears of fans and sponsors, it did a good job. Now comes the hard part: getting all these good proposals and pronouncements to produce a safer game that continues to be entertaining (and TSN’s Bob McKenzie, speaking on Wednesday’s “Morning Show” over Montreal’s Team 990 radio, adds that how these proposals will look as rules is still unknown; his very interesting take can be heard on this page).

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  • Published On Mar 15, 2011
  • Spotlight’s on NHL GMs, head shots, discipline

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    Zdeno Chara’s devastating hit on Max Pacioretty turned up the heat on a long-simmering issue. (Jean-Yves Ahern/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    NHL general managers began meeting today in Boca Raton, Florida, and there is some thought that this gathering — coming after the increased public outcry against the rise in head injuries and the league’s leniency in punishing players who inflict them – may be the most important one in a while. Further steps to protect the head is a major agenda item.

    It’s uncertain at the moment how far the GMs will go in making changes to the existing rules and standards of supplemental discipline. But TSN, NBC and Sports Illustrated’s Pierre McGuire said on Ottawa radio Team 1200 (audio) that he had spoken to a number of GMs and league decision-makers and the GMs are “very serious.”  McGuire called them “an extremely motivated and focused group right now. They understand; they’re hearing the message of the fans. Most of the enlightened general managers don’t want to alienate the fan base of the National Hockey League and the corporate sponsors of the National Hockey League.”

    Just as last year when the GMs met in March in the shadow of the Matt Cooke – Marc Savard  blindside head shot, this year’s gathering will take place after Zdeno Chara’s hit badly injured Max Pacioretty, as well as a long string of incidents that includes the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby being out of the lineup since early January (Crosby skated today for the first time since being hit head-first into the boards by Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman on Jan. 5).

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  • Published On Mar 14, 2011
  • NHL response to Pens-Isles brawl not tough enough

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    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL has been on the edge and even gone over the top too often this season. On Friday night, for one game at least, it spun out of control. And the league’s subsequent disciplinary measures don’t go far enough to discourage players and teams from doing it again.
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  • Published On Feb 14, 2011
  • Sidney Crosby’s in rare territory

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    As great as Wayne Gretzky was in his prime, his overall offensive impact on the Oilers wasn’t as great as Sidney Crosby’s has been on the Penguins. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Some days it’s a challenge to find something new or different to say about Sidney Crosby, and he isn’t helping. We featured him here 10 days ago, but he just keeps plowing through the NHL and everyone, including SI.com’s Michael Farber, is justifiably raving about his play.

    On Wednesday night, Crosby scored two more goals in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 dismantling of the Maple Leafs, who showed their truculence by ineffectively running at him. (He stood up for himself and was not thrown off his game at all.) Then the Leafs got beat and beaten up by Crosby’s teammates.

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  • Published On Dec 09, 2010


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