Bobby Hull, the Blackhawks’ all-time leading goal scorer, died Monday morning, two people close to Hull told the Daily Herald.
No other immediate details were available. Hull just celebrated his 84th birthday on Jan. 3.
The controversial Hull, who possessed a howitzer of a shot that allowed him to score 610 NHL goals, broke into the league in the 1957-58 season. He scored 30 or more goals for 13 consecutive seasons then left for the World Hockey Association in 1972 when the league agreed to pay him $1 million.
Hull, Stan Mikita and others led the Hawks to a Stanley Cup title in 1961.
Hull also became the first player to score more than 50 goals in a season on March 12, 1966, and finished with 54 goals that season.
Hull’s life was not without controversy, however.
He was accused of spousal abuse and was also quoted by a Russian newspaper in 1998 saying that Adolf Hitler “had some good ideas” and that the black community in the U.S. was growing too quickly. He vehemently denied those quotes in a statement published by the L.A. Times, saying he was “deeply offended” by those “false statements.”
In an interview with the Daily Herald, Hull didn’t want to discuss the subject further.
Hull and Mikita were made Blackhawks ambassadors in 2010 by then-President John McDonough.
Bringing Hull and Mikita back into the fold -- and later adding Tony Esposito and Denis Savard -- helped heal gaping wounds that existed for much of the fan base.
A major change was made last season, however, when Hull was informed his services would no longer be needed.
Hull was notified of the Hawks’ decision by phone.
“This is the only time I’ve ever been let go from any job I’ve ever been in,” Hull said. “It’s a little bit disappointing. I thought we ambassadors were doing a good job with the fans.”
When news of Hull’s ousting broke a month ago the Hawks released a statement that read: “We’re redefining the role of team ambassador -- which unfortunately comes on the heels of losing two very special members of that family. When it comes to Bobby, specifically, we jointly agreed earlier this season that he will retire from any official team role.”
Hull, who has had some troubling off-ice incidents over the years, said he believes the Hawks made this decision to “cover up their shortcomings” in the wake of the Brad Aldrich sexual abuse scandal. “Maybe I was used as a scapegoat,” said Hull, who was convicted of assaulting a police officer who was trying to arrest him during an altercation with his wife in 1986. “They brought up things that happened 50 years ago to cover up their shortcomings with this pedophile. Whomever was involved did it all wrong. (Aldrich) should have been reported to the feds and it would have been over with 12 years ago.
“Had I had anything to do with it, I would have kicked the (crap) out of (him) and then called the feds and said, ‘(This guy) is a pedophile. Put him in jail.’ And it would have been all over and Rocky wouldn’t have had to go through it.
“Rocky’s been a fabulous guy. And I still say he’s a fabulous guy and I’d stand behind him come hell or high water.”
As for his past transgressions, Hull said he understands some fans may hold them against him.
But for those he entertained all those years ago, he knows he left an indelible mark.
“I think I’ve made a reputation while I was here as a player that a lot of those people during those 15 years can’t forget,” Hull said last year at the Palace Grill in Chicago. “I entertained them royally for 15 years.
“Those who were upset, that’s OK. They have their rights.
“But the people that weren’t upset, if you canvass them, you’d have found out how much I meant to that group -- teenagers or young 20s in the (’50s). They’re 75 or 80 now. They’d tell you what they thought.”