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November 5, 2009

Brett Hull

DAVID KEON: Good morning, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. This is our fourth in a series of five calls this week, leading into next Monday's Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Toronto.
With us with have 2009 inductee Brett Hull. Thanks to Brett for taking the time today to join us and answer your questions and thanks to Rob Scichili of the Dallas Stars public relations department for helping to arrange this call. Brett spent 20 seasons in the National Hockey League playing for Calgary, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix, compiling 1,269 regular-season games, good for 58th on the all-times games played list. His 741 regular-season goals rank third on the all-time goal scoring list. He added 650 assists for 1,391 career points, good for 21st on the all-times points list.
He was Calgary's sixth choice, 117th overall in the 1984 entry draft. Brett was also deadly accurate in the playoffs, posting 103 goals and 87 assists for 190 points in 202 career playoff games. In 1990, he won the Lady Byng Trophy, and in '91 was the Hart Trophy winner as the most valuable player in the National Hockey League. He won a Stanley Cup in Dallas in 1999, and won in Detroit in 2002. He also appeared in eight NHL All-Star Games.
Again, we thank Brett for taking the time to join us and answer your questions. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. I wanted to talk this morning about the importance of opportunity and timing. Steve Yzerman and Brian Leetch were high draft choices, you and Luc weren't. I think it's easy to say after the fact a great NHL career was in the cards. Could you have fallen through the cracks if things hadn't worked out with Calgary in '84 the way they did?
BRETT HULL: You know, I guess hindsight is 20/20. But, I mean, it's almost impossible to answer. I think it's probably very possible. I've said for years I could never figure out why Calgary ever drafted me. When I got there, I think they had eight or nine right wingers already, including Lanny McDonald, Joey Mullen, Hakan Loob. These guys were premiere players. It's not like they were extremely late in their careers either.
Yeah, if Ron Caron from St. Louis hadn't called and possibly made that trade, I could have fallen through the cracks. But, again, you never know.

Q. At what point did it become a realistic thing? You scored 105 goals, had two good years at Minnesota Duluth. In your own mind, when did hockey stop being a recreational thing for you and something that might be your career?
BRETT HULL: Well, you know what, I think once I actually was playing junior in Penticton and I got my first letter from a U.S. college, which I believe the first one I got was from Michigan State, I went and talked to my coach Rick Cosback (phonetic), and we had a discussion, and from there I realized maybe I can take this somewhere else.
But I think the reason I had success is, along with realizing I may have had a chance, I never lost that attitude while I was playing that I was just playing with my friends or my buddies and go out and enjoy it and have a good time.
Sometimes the coaches got a little upset with me because of that. But I think the success I had was because of that.

Q. Are you talking to Wayne a lot these days? Do you know if he's planning to come in with you and the rest of the boys. I know he's tight with all of you.
BRETT HULL: Yeah, you know what, I know he really wants to. I know Janet wants to, as well. I don't think a final decision has been made on that yet.

Q. I'd like to see if we can do the St. Louis aspect of your career. Was it surprising to be having such a good season in Calgary and then be traded to St. Louis? I talked to Brian Sutter, he said both you and Adam Oates were young, had success in college, but he said he thought you both didn't know how good you could be. Do you agree with that? How did your time with Brian help you develop? It was amazing chemistry with Adam.
BRETT HULL: The best thing that ever happened to me was going through St. Louis and having Brian Sutter retire and become the head coach. He hit it right on the head. Unless you're a Gretzky or Lemieux, I don't think any young kid realizes how good they can be, what kind of potential. I think that's a problem with a lot of coaches, too, is they don't see it.
Brian, after my first full year in St. Louis, I had 41 or 42 goals, I can't remember, but I'm expecting to go into his office and get the pat on the back, you're a good player, we're so happy to have you. I go into his office, and he gets into me up and down, but in a very positive way. That's exactly what he says to me. He said, You don't have any idea how good you are. You don't work hard enough to bring out your true potential.
I guess I could have taken that two ways, but I went with it as saying, Here is a guy I have a lot of respect for. If he thinks that much of me and believes I can do all those things he just told me I can do, I'm going to take it and try to do them. From that point on, that was my goal, is to try to become the best player that I possibly could. I give all the credit in the world to Brian Sutter.

Q. After the trade, it was made for economic reasons, they brought in Craig Janney and you had success with Craig. There was a couple years when you played with centers not known for playing-making skills, you go out the door. Did you think of that aspect, if they had a consistent line of guys that you had good chemistry with, what it might have been like in St. Louis?
BRETT HULL: I do all the time. Not so much that, it's if they ever would have gotten rid of Adam Oates how many goals I could have scored. To me, he is the most underrated player that ever played the game. Besides the obvious Wayne Gretzky, I think he's the smartest player that ever played the game. He loved to pass the puck and was extraordinary gifted at passing the puck. We had such great chemistry on and off the ice, I don't know, it was like a quarterback and a receiver where he just knows where he's going to be. That's the way we were.
It really kind of does bother me that they let him go and the numbers that we could have put up were scary.

Q. A lot of guys slapped the puck. You wrist it. Did you work on that when you were a kid as opposed to your dad saying, Forget the slapshot, I have it all to myself? The other question is, do you think anybody in today's game, where you got like 220 goals in three straight years?
BRETT HULL: First of all, when I was younger, all the kids, my brothers, my dad really stressed the wrist shot. I think it was a different game obviously because I think we were of the age where he could actually talk to us about it and we could understand when he was in Winnipeg. The game was obviously different. There was tons of room. He could take slapshots.
Also Bob Berry was our assistant coach with Brian Sutter in St. Louis. Every day after practice, he would line me up on the right wing and make me go down the boards. He'd throw pucks to me, make me take wrist shots off the right wing. That's really when I learned that if you're going to score goals in the NHL, you've got to be able to take a quick wrist shot with a quick release. Goalies are so good, the defensemen are so quick and big, there's not time when you're in those tight spaces to wind up.
I worked on the wrist shot a lot. I'm glad I did because, you know, I scored more goals with that shot than the slapper.

Q. Do you think anybody can get 72, 86?
BRETT HULL: I don't know. If anybody can, Ovechkin can. I mean, he's bigger, faster, stronger, shoots harder than I ever dreamed of being. I don't know if it's the game and the goalies' equipment that might not let him, but he can do it. I know that.

Q. Can you teach a player how to score goals or is it a skill, something you're born with?
BRETT HULL: Since I retired and have been working in Dallas with the Stars, I think it's kind of a Catch-22 almost. You can explain where to go. You can help them with, like, the theory on goal scoring. I've been working with Brenden Morrow. He does go to those areas more now. I think it's a work in progress. But unless you have that, it's obviously not born, but unless you have that goal-scorer's mentality and will go there all the time, I'm not sure you can. But you can sure help people with it. I know the stuff I've helped with Brendan, it's improved his scoring.
I don't know. You just watch Ovechkin, he reminds me -- I don't want to say he reminds me of me, but he goes to all the places that I used to go. It's so fun to watch him.

Q. It was almost 22 years ago to the day that you scored your first NHL goal against the old Hartford Whalers. Can you tell us what that first goal symbolized to you?
BRETT HULL: Well, again, I talked to someone yesterday, and they said, What were your greatest moments in the game? I think, I think obviously the first is your first game, the first time you skate on the ice with that NHL jersey on and you can say, You know what, I did it. All the hard work that everybody put in for me to get here has paid off. To get your first NHL goal is something else.
You think you get one, there's going to go in by bushels. It's hard to score goals. You know, I talk about this all the time with guys like Kelly Chase that I played with. There's different kinds of toughness and whatnot. For those guys who score goals, you know, like Andreychuk, Tim Kerr, that stand in that slot or in front of the net, get hacked, whacked, cross-checked, there's a degree of toughness in that.
You know, my first goal, I don't know what it symbolized, but it was sure the feeling that I felt and I wanted to continue to feel throughout my career.

Q. You played with a number of great players. You mentioned Adam Oates. Is there someone that stands out in your mind that should be here in the Hall of Fame with you shortly?
BRETT HULL: Well, I think Adam Oates is one, for sure. I mean, during the era that I played in, the numbers that people put up, the quality of play was so high, I mean, you could pick a lot of guys.
The one guy I do want to mention, I'm not so sure that he may have ever been a Hall of Famer, but Peter Zezel, a guy I played with, he was my centerman when I scored my first year I got 70 goals, he was a tremendous players, a tremendous person. He'll be missed greatly.

Q. I was wondering where you had the most fun playing hockey and whether Mike Keenan or Hitch are coming to your induction?
BRETT HULL: Well, I don't know if they're coming.

Q. They're not invited?
BRETT HULL: Well, no. Obviously, Hitch is still coaching, so I don't even know if he can make it. I certainly would love to see both of them there. I've got an obviously strained relationship with Mike. At Wayne's tournament, his golf tournament this year, I had a great talk with him. I'm not much for holding grudges or whatever. We had a great talk. Life is too short to be bitter. He's actually a good man. We just didn't really hit it off as player and coach.
Hitch, I don't know why, they've always said me and Hitch didn't get along. I always got along great with Hitch. I just had a little problem with the style we had to play under him. He's a great man. I have a ton of respect for Ken.

Q. Where did you have the most fun?
BRETT HULL: Oh, St. Louis. At one point in St. Louis, we had two married guys on the team. It was just a good bunch of young kids just going out. We had fun. We had fun on the ice. We played hard. We played hard on the ice. We played hard off the ice.
St. Louis is an unbelievably good city. I think you see that with the alumni that they have. When they skate as an alumni, they have to tell people that they can't skate because they have too many guys. So I had so much fun in St. Louis, made so many friends. That's a time in my life I'll never forget.

Q. When you and Grezt got together, everyone was expecting utter magic. You guys were good together, but everyone thought you were going to get a hundred goals. Was there just not enough time to get real good chemistry between you two?
BRETT HULL: Well, yeah. Wayne had just come from L.A. I think he was playing about 12 minutes a game. He came to St. Louis. I think he got hurt in about the fourth game or fifth game. So he was there for I don't know the exact numbers, but I want to say we only played 15 or so games together. I think that included the playoffs. So besides the fact that he was kind of a little bit rusty, if you could ever say that about Wayne, but we didn't play a lot together. I think he had just as much trouble with Mike as I did.
I wish we could have had more time, as well. But, you know, what are you going to do?

Q. It's hard enough scoring 50 goals in a season. He scored 50 in 50 games twice. How difficult an accomplishment is that?
BRETT HULL: Well, when you get to play with a guy like Adam Oates, it's not as difficult as you would think. But it is. I mean, I guess I look at Wayne's 92 goals, and I just shake my head. When I got 86, I thought I scored every time I was on the ice. 50 goals in 50 games, I guess you have to stay healthy, too. I know like Cam Neely did it, as well, but it was 50th game of the season. To stay healthy in that era when it was a pretty physical game, during that time -- today, I think it would almost be impossible. But back then, I mean, there was a lot of goals being scored. When you get to play with a guy like Adam Oates, it sure makes it easy or easier.

Q. Two teammates of yours on the '96 World Cup team, Tony Amonte, John LeClair are going into the U.S. Hall of Fame. Can you talk about Amonte and LeClair as teammates and their impact?
BRETT HULL: Well, absolutely. Kind of two different areas. John LeClair was your ultimate power forward. Big, strong, big, heavy shot, park himself in front of the net, create havoc on the power-play. Just a sweetheart of a guy. Everyone loved to be around him.
Tony was the speed demon, get that puck and start wheeling. I don't know if there's too many guys that were ever faster in the NHL. He had a nose for the net. He had a knack for scoring big goals. That's what I really had a lot of respect with Tony about. He was also a super fun guy to be around. I enjoyed playing with both of them.

Q. How did two seasons of U.S. college hockey at Duluth help you take that step forward in your career?
BRETT HULL: Well, I'm not so sure it was just college, it was the program that Minnesota Duluth had. They had adopted the U.S. Olympic skating program. I had talked to my junior coach. He said if you're going to go to the next level and do anything, you're going to have to really hunker down and work on your skating. So that's when I went to visit Duluth to see the campus and everything. They explained that program to me. I go, This is kind of a no-brainer. Every Monday, every Wednesday all we do is skate. It's not like punishment skating, it's a program that works on your skating and conditioning without making it seem like torture. It really helped me my two years.

Q. You already touched briefly on some of your memorable goals. I'm wondering where you scored the goal in Buffalo to win the Stanley Cup ranks among your goals?
BRETT HULL: I think it ranks No. 1 to me. There was a boatload of people saying, when I was leaving St. Louis, I think it started there, was that, You're never going to win with Brett Hull on your team. To go to Dallas and be the 'missing piece of the puzzle' that's going to help them win their Cup, and then to go out and score the goal in overtime, who hasn't sat as a kid on the ice with his buddies and dreamt or pretended that's the goal they've scored. To do it in real life was something special.

Q. Because of the rules at the time, there was some controversy around that goal. Did you ever have much concern whether it would stand or not or you were so excited that you scored?
BRETT HULL: Well, no, we all knew that they had changed the rule. But obviously the NHL decided they weren't going to tell anybody but the teams. If you had control in the crease, and it was because of people getting breakaways on the empty net, it would stay through the crease, lay it in the empty net, they were taking those goals away, they changed the rule to say if you had possession in the crease, and some people's definition of control are different, but if you have control in the crease, you can score the goal, and that's exactly what it was. But nobody knows that. You can tell people that a million times and they just will not listen.

Q. It's like everybody remembers their first impression of it almost.
BRETT HULL: Well, of course.

Q. When the goal-scorer shoots, does he look at the net or does he just know where the net is? How did you feel when you scored one more goal than your dad scored?
BRETT HULL: The answer is, for me as a goal-scorer, I practice. Every shooting drill or whatnot, I practiced like it was a game. So when it came time in a game, I knew exactly where I was going to shoot at what position I was on the ice. I learned if there was a certain area on the ice, there were a couple places you could shoot that you could score. I always believed if you shot and it went through the goalie's legs that it was a lucky shot because I just couldn't get it through my mind that I want to shoot right at the goalie. I mean, if you're on a breakaway, that's one thing.
So, yeah, I think for me I never looked. I knew where the net was and I knew the couple areas where the puck could go in and areas where I had no chance of scoring if I put it there.
Then to pass my father, it was kind of bittersweet. I got so much respect for him, what he meant to this game, how he played, it would have been great for me for both of us to end up with the exact same amount. Obviously we knew that wasn't going to happen because I had a number of years left to play after that.
It was a great feeling. To be able to pass a guy who is not only one of the greatest players to ever play the game but he's also your father is pretty special.

Q. We talked a little bit about you playing for Ken Hitchcock. We mentioned Brian Sutter, Mike Keenan. You played for possibly the greatest strategist as a coach in the history of the game, Scotty Bowman. You played on a team that might put eight guys in the Hall of Fame, won your final Stanley Cup. Talk about that, but also talk about the deflected goal against Carolina that seemed to turn that series after the Hurricanes had gotten off to a good start.
BRETT HULL: Absolutely. To play for Scotty, I kind of put it this way: I was lucky enough to kind of feel what it was like to be an old New York Yankee. I got to play with Babe Ruth of hockey and become one of his good friends. I got to play for Casey Stengel, one of the greatest coaches that ever walked the earth. I had more fun in the one year of playing for Scotty than I did my whole career. We just seemed to have the same philosophy. We thought the game the same way. Like you said, to play on that team with him coaching, it felt, looking back, like you were on a team with Mantle and Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, all those great players, it's scary.

Q. I think a lot about the deflected goal in the World Cup and in the Carolina series. I think that Carolina had some momentum going with you guys.
BRETT HULL: Absolutely.

Q. You got in front of them and it deflected, it turned.
BRETT HULL: The series was tied 1-1. They beat us in Game 1. It wasn't an easy victory in Game 2. We're down 1-0 in that game. Scotty put us out there. I remember Yzerman just came over to me at the faceoff, he says, I don't care what happens, you go straight through to that corner. The puck drops, I go straight through to the corner. I see us win the draw. I don't know if it's because I went into the corner and they forgot about me. I did a little turn and ask skated right back out, not even like to the front of the net, a little bit higher in that, a little bit in the deeper slot. As it went over to Lidstrom, I said, I'm going to get a good shot, because he's obviously the best. He fired that thing at a perfect height. I just got a piece of it and it went in. It's one of those moments, it's so euphoric to get that goal. You could see that, you're right, the series could have gone either way at that point. That goal I think turned it our way.

Q. We talked a little bit about your dad. Your mom was also a very good skater. I was a little surprised to hear you talking about the roughness of your skating up to college age. Tell me about your mom's influence on your life, your attitudes, what contributions did she make to you in terms of having this kind of career.
BRETT HULL: Well, I think the genetic makeup I have, easygoing, don't let a lot of things bother me, never really have any problem with pressure. You think in situations, you go out there, you'd be nervous. I just relished it. I think that all came from my mother. She's an unbelievably intelligent woman. I think as much as my hockey sense was genetically gifted from my father, I think she had a lot to do with it, as well. Being able to decipher or disseminate the information I was getting I think was definitely from her, as well. Always very, very supportive. When you have a support structure like that, it sure makes everything easy.

Q. When you moved to Vancouver, Cliff Ronning was one of the youth hockey stars in the area. You played with him in St. Louis and were a great combination.
BRETT HULL: He was a great player. He played at Burnaby Winter Club, if I'm not mistaken, along with Joey Sack. Joey played at Winter Club with my little brother. Cliff was a great player. You know, he was always a little bit undersized. At that point in my life I had no aspirations or idea of future hockey. I was just out there having a good time. I can say that I don't really remember. But I know when with played together in St. Louis, he was a good, good player. I'm not even sure if he was used properly because I think at that point the game was really kind of rough and tough. There wasn't very many small guys at all in the league. But, boy, did he have a lot of skill.

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