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The Devil and Bobby Hull: How Hockey's Original Million-Dollar Man Became the Game's Lost Legend [Hardcover]

Gare Joyce
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011
An award-winning writer sets the record straight on hockey's forgotten golden boy—Bobby Hull

In his prime, few could dispute Bobby Hull's athletic brilliance—the first to have five 50-goal seasons, the highest scorer on the 1976 Canada Cup team, the first to use the slapshot as a scoring weapon, and the first hockey player to sign a million-dollar contract. With his body-builder torso, and his 100 mph volleys across a rink, the world of hockey glory was his to lose. And he did. With his publicized marital troubles and his defection from the NHL to the WHA, Hull's star began to fall, leaving him broke and in exile from the game. In The Devil and Bobby Hull, this once great hockey player and pioneer is finally given his due.

Not only are Hull's remarkable on-ice achievements finally put in perspective, so, too, are his achievements off the rink—including endorsements for a wide array of products (rare for an NHL player) and his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated a record four times. And the book details how Hull's battle with the owners of the Chicago Blackhawks—challenging the reserve clause in his contract, a move that enabled him to move to the WHA—helped other players follow him.

  • The author places Hull squarely in the pantheon of other hockey greats, including Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky—and makes the case that he is the game's most influential and important player
  • This is the full, unauthorized story of Hull's life—that doesn't sidestep the controversies (including the domestic violence tainting his private life)
  • Details Hull's recent reconciliation with the Chicago Blackhawks

A candid look at one of hockey's most gifted and controversial figures, The Devil and Bobby Hull tells the story of his extraordinary career and life—and why this remarkable man has not faded into oblivion.


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From the Inside Flap

In 1972 Bobby Hull was the Golden Jet, the most prolific scorer in the history of the National Hockey League. And then he walked away. Not from the game but from the NHL. Though he landed the biggest contract in professional sports, including a $1-million bonus up front, his decision to jump to the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association wasn't based only on finances. It was payback, a piece of the ugliest grudge in the game: the hard feelings between Hull and the Wirtz family, owners of the Chicago Black Hawks.

Though Hull still had some great moments in the '70s, many went unseen by hockey fans and his legacy started to unravel. So did his reputation when his deeply troubled marriage ended and his unseemly personal life was aired in divorce court.

The Devil and Bobby Hull is an unauthorized warts-and-all treatment of Hull's very public mid-life crisis in the 1970s, a time when sports were undergoing a sea change, when money mattered as much as or more than games, when an athlete's life away from the arena became fair game for the media.

Award-winning writer Gare Joyce weaves a fascinating and well-rounded narrative out of the prime and decline of Robert Marvin Hull, supported by interviews with Hull himself and many others who played with him and knew him throughout his career. This is a must-read book for hockey fans. It presents a compelling case that Hull is the most influential player the game has ever seen and its most unfairly overlooked superstar.

From the Back Cover

Award-winning writer Gare Joyce sets the record straight on hockey's forgotten legend

In his prime, few could dispute Bobby Hull's brilliance—the first NHLer to break the 50-goal barrier, the first star to use the slapshot as a scoring weapon, and the first hockey player to sign a million-dollar contract. With his Hollywood good looks, his body-builder torso, and a 100 mph blast that terrorized goaltenders, the world of hockey glory was his to lose. And he did. With his publicized marital troubles and his defection from the NHL to the WHA, Hull's star began to fall, leaving him broke and in exile from the game. Few today bother to list Hull among the legends of the game, but despite his flaws, he deserves a great deal of credit for his influence on the way the game is played today.

The Devil and Bobby Hull details the decline and fall of this legendary star and the damage, some of it self-inflicted, to his legacy.

Not only are Hull's remarkable on-ice achievements finally put in perspective, so are his achievements off the rink—including endorsements for a wide array of products (rare for an NHL player at the time) and his appearances on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Joyce also describes how Hull's dramatic battle with the owners of the Chicago Black Hawks and his challenging of the reserve clause in his contract enabled him to move to the WHA and pave the way for other players.

A candid look at one of hockey's most gifted and controversial figures, The Devil and Bobby Hull tells the story of his extraordinary career and life—and why this remarkable man has not received his due.


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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very dark and foreboding Nov. 1 2011
Format:Hardcover
A very dark and foreboding account of one of the premier NHL players of all time.
A justifiably resentful Bobby Hull, screwed over by the 1960's Chicago Blackhawks owned by the miserly Wirtz family, as did most players of his time where hockey teams virtually held sway over the lives of their players before the advent of the NHL Players Association, disullisioned with the lack of respect and monetary compensation that was deserved for such a star player, jumped to the fledgling World Hockey Association.

An eye-opening account for the hockey fan who lived during the WHA era as one feels both sympathy for Hull, who tried to make the best of a situation where he never received the credit he deserved, and antipathy for the negative publicity he drew for his off-ice and somewhat arrogant demeanour.

A sad end for one of the greatest players in the game.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read Feb. 2 2012
By Neil
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Growing up in the 60's and 70's Bobby Hull was the man ..... he was my boyhood idol .... I followed this man's career to the end and this book helped fill in a few areas that I was unaware of. It is written brutally honest and accurate .... even though there are a few typo errors in the book it is a overall must read for any Bobby Hull fan ! Every Professional hockey player that has played after Bobby Hull, should pay their dues for what he accomplished, he was indeed the Micky Mantle of hockey!

Neil Abday
Williams Lake, BC
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Worth The Read April 2 2012
By Rory
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I anticipated a book which documented the struggles of a legend in hockey who fell from grace, and his attemps at redemption. Mr Hull who is a Canadian sports icon, obviously has had his share of struggles, but the author spent more time recounting games, highlights and his foray into the WHA. There really was very little about his troubles, the title is misleading. The colorful antics of pro sports stars are things not shown on tv, i can watch old Chicago games on NHL classic tv, i dont need a recap of his 1960 playoff games.
I was dissapointed in this obviously unauthorized bio. Most likely why the author touched so little on Bobby Hull's life. Boring read for an interesting sports figure.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skating without a Zamboni July 14 2013
By Pugwash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With the utmost respect, please consider this review to be a dissenting opinion from some of the previous written reviews of this book.

I grew up in Chicago following all the sports teams in the late 1960's and 1970's, and although the Cubs sported a host of future Hall of Famers, the Bears had Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus and the White Sox had Luis Aparicio and Hoyt Wilhelm, Bobby Hull was the most charismatic of all. He was the show.

And, true to the book, he was an ambassador. When my Dad took me to a game when I was still in single digits, sitting behind the penalty box, Bobby Hull skated right up, without being asked, grabbed a pen and asked for my program. He was larger than life.

This book plumbs through Bobby's career and his life. Like the life of any real life hero, it is flawed. He has acted venal at times. He has skeletons in his closet. He has abused and been abused. It is not always comfortable to read.

If one reads a thorough biography of FDR, one sees his warts, his pettiness at times, his lapses of character and misguided decisions that go hand in hand with his greatness and triumphs. So it is with Bobby Hull. Arguably the greatest player of his generation, almost certainly the most influential and the most courageous, today, from the distance of 40 years, it looks like the NHL has abandoned its' greatest leader.

For a simple farmer without a college education, Hull tried to be a businessman. He did well for awhile, and fell on hard times. So have many people with MBA's.

He had foresight in seeing the talent of the European hockey players and bringing them to North America, where they changed the complexion of hockey. He personally took it upon himself to promote the WHA, and will the league to succeed.

His divorce brought scandal upon himself, a measure of depression, and damage to his reputation. It is part of his story. Less the scandal, millions who have undergone divorce have felt the same debilitation.

I found this to be a highly readable, interesting and worthwhile account of one of my boyhood heroes. Does it diminish his legacy for me? Not at all. Maybe his flaws, like his hockey career, are larger than life. So be it. I would highly recommend this book.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading Title Sept. 17 2012
By Rory - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I must admit, having grown up when Bobby Hull was still playing in the NHL and WHA leagues, I was intrigued by the title. I also have met Bobby Hull personally and my impression of him is that he is genuine individual, with a love for the game, but also a human being with failings and flaws. The book hinges on Hull and his ascent as the first millionaire face of the WHA (World Hockey Association) just following its inception. The first few chapters are a historical look at his playing life in the early '60s with the Black Hawks, without much relevance to the "Devil" in his life as referred to in the title. I am not sure why the author has spent so much time in giving readers a play by play of specific games in Hull's early career, I expected that this book would have delved into his personal struggles and the demons that plagued him during and after his playing life. I found that this was not really a book about this, but rather a historical version of the ups and downs in his career.
Unfortunately, I think the title is misleading, and personally I didn't find it to be an engaging read. I had difficulty in staying motivated to finish it, as it was heavily directed at educating the reader about the World Hockey Association, and the effect that Hull had on joining it. He had a much similar impact as Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe on joining the WHA, so other than the fact he signed a million dollar contract, this was a story that could have been told about other high profile players. If you are expecting a juicy read about a man who took advantage of the excesses available to professional athletes, you won't find it in this book. It was very evident the author was picking his words carefully, as well as writing a significant amount of filler, much of which can be found in many accounts of Hull's playing career.
Too bad.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! Jan. 10 2012
By Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a very big fan of Gare Joyce and his writing style, ever since I read "Future Greats and Heartbreaks," in addition to his draft articles on ESPN.com. This book was written beautifully, flowed perfectly, and was extremely interesting to read. Unfortunately, it does seem to portray Bobby Hull in a bit of a dark light, but, like any book, if you read with a bit of skepticism and question certain pieces of it, you really can get a lot out of it. I got some interesting tidbits out of this book, and would recommend it to any hockey fan that have a love of the game. It is not quite a five-star book, but once again, it is still extremely interesting and worthwhile to pick up.
13 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars too hard on a hockey legend Dec 7 2011
By gardien25 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book unfairly punishes Bobby for the break-up of his marriage and for all of the problems that he had with the Blackhawks' management. Every pro-hockey player should thank Bobby Hull for all of his efforts in promoting the WHA and enabling NHL hockey players to make salaries comparable to pro athletes in other sports.
I knew Bobby Hull briefly during my college hockey days when Bobby was again living in the Chicago area.
Regardless of his personal problems, Bobby Hull will always leave with me and my teammates many fond memories of his generosity and warmth that he displayed to all of those who met him.
(I believe whatever transpired in his personal life is not our business).
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bobby Hull phenomenon explained Nov. 1 2013
By John Mundie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is not perfect by any means, but I very much enjoyed it and give it full marks.

I have always wondered why Bobby Hull ended up as one of hockey's greatest players who is not celebrated by the NHL, and this book answered many of my questions. I grew up in Montreal of the 1970's and we had Jean Beliveau as the quintessential hockey gentleman (and what a great man he is, as anybody who met him will attest to. My dad, a hard man, met him and thought the world of him.)

Bobby Hull is no Beliveau. He is a flawed man who happened to be a great hockey player. The book portrays many of his shortcomings and warts, but as one reviewer notes, come up a little short with hard (or ugly) facts and criticism. I found that this just made Hull out to be pathetic more than he was bad or mean.

This book is about his personal life, but also does a pretty good job arguing that Hull is perhaps the most important player in professional hockey history for what he accomplished off the ice. He was the player who changed the game, and made a lot of enemies doing so. Sure, somebody would have eventually changed the game, but he is that man (tho a case could be made for Bobby Orr.)

And he might not have killed anybody (as a reviewer notes) but he sure beat some people senseless. The Reg Fleming fight chapter of the book is quite revealing.

If you have ever wondered about the Bobby Hull phenomenon, and I guess many people don't given what little attention is paid to him, then this is your book. It is generally well written and informative, and certainly has a well argued revisionist tone. I found it second hand and probably wouldn't have bought it new, but am very glad I read it. Time well wasted.
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