"It was just a different atmosphere right from Day 1," said Esposito, the Hall of Fame goalie who helped the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup finals twice in the early 1970s. "He just decided to clean out the old regime, a lot of personnel, and start fresh."
And the wins started piling up, too.
Young stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane re-energized
the franchise, and key additions like Marian Hossa last summer
helped push them into the Stanley Cup finals for the first time
"I'm just happy that the team has come back so far," Esposito
said. "They went through many years there where ... you'd just
shake your head. You just shook your head the way the franchise was
Hull, Chicago's career leader with 604 goals in 15 seasons, left
the Blackhawks for the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets in
1972 after an acrimonious contract negotiation with Bill Wirtz, and
the ill will continued to build over the years.
Chicago claimed him when the NHL absorbed four WHA teams,
including Winnipeg, in 1979, but Pulford left him unprotected and
the Jets reclaimed him.
Although the Blackhawks retired his No. 9 in 1983, the bad
feelings continued. Bobby Hull resented that the Hawks failed to
acquire son Brett Hull on several occasions, including when he was
a free agent, and there was another issue that had to be cleared up
-- his reputation.
He took a big hit when he allegedly told a reporter that Hitler
"had some good ideas, but went too far," and it took years to
live down that comment.
Now, he's back in the fold, something he never would have
envisioned five years ago.
"I'm sure that I burned all the bridges that there were to be
burned when I left in '72," he said. "All I could do from then on
was be on the outside looking in."
He said he reached out to Bill Wirtz and son Peter over the
years and had several meetings with them, but nothing ever came of
"I tried to show them how to fill the building, but they
wouldn't listen to me," he said. "They thought that I was going
to get something out of it that I didn't deserve. And it was just
exactly what Rocky did. I said, 'Guys, all you need to do is hold a
press conference, tell the people that I'm back in the fold and
that we're catering to them. We're going to try to put together a
better team for them to watch and they'd come out of the
He said Rocky Wirtz "has more on the ball in one minute" than
his father had "in his lifetime," and Hull rates the last three
years among the best of his life.
He looks at the current group and sees the potential for a
dynasty, something he thought he would be part of all those years
He never did drink out of the cup when the Blackhawks beat
Detroit for the championship in 1961. He did, however, drink beer
out of team vice president Michael Wirtz's "dirty old felt hat"
and "got sicker than a pig."
The only time Hull drank out of the cup was years later when he
and Brett, who won two championships with Dallas and Detroit, were
at Chris Chelios' golf outing. They poured in a few beers and
hoisted it for Bobby to take a few swigs.
"I'm looking forward to drinking some real champagne if I get a
chance this time," Bobby Hull said. "I will imbibe in that."
Hull to Blackhawks: Savor the Stanley Cup moment
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