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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

TBC: The Devil And Bobby Hull

I have had the privilege of meeting hockey legend Bobby Hull in my life, and I found the man fascinating in the short time I spoke with him. He had stories and tales that he told one after another, making him quite the entertainer for the few minutes I spent in his presence. Today, Teebz's Book Club is proud to present a book that focuses on Bobby Hull in The Devil And Bobby Hull, written by Gare Joyce and published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. In having met Bobby Hull and heard the tales of him in and around Winnipeg, there was always a larger-than-life aura that seemed to encompass him. Mr. Joyce's look at Bobby Hull's career and his struggles behind the scenes that led him down the dark path in becoming hockey's lost legend.

Gare Joyce is a writer for ESPN The Magazine. He is a regular contributor to several national publications as well, such as Christian Science Monitor, Canadian Geographic, Maclean’s, and The Walrus. You can find him writing for Sportsnet.ca where he routinely covers junior hockey in Canada. He was won three National Magazine Awards, and has several other books that have been published, including Future Greats and Heartbreaks and When The Lights Went Out that have been reviewed on this site as well.

I expected the story contained within the covers of The Devil And Bobby Hull to be about how Hull's jump to the WHA led to his banishment from the hockey spotlight, but little did I know that Mr. Joyce would cover that portion of Hull's story and a whole lot more. When you begin down the rabbit hole that is Bobby Hull's life, you discover that it wasn't as glamorous and exciting as much as Bobby Hull lets on, and is, in fact, quite horrible when you consider the picture that Mr. Joyce paints.

Each chapter starts with Mr. Joyce and Bobby Hull sitting in a popular hockey-themed restaurant in Toronto where Hull is talking about his career with Mr. Joyce. I found that starting the chapters in this fashion really set the tone for the rest of the chapter, and, as the book progresses, the dark clouds begin to fill the picture as Mr. Joyce paints it. From his battles with the Wirtzes to the jump to the WHA to the snub on the Summit Series team, Mr. Joyce really digs into these wounds and looks at why these events happened. Needless to say, he finds a lot of information about why things happened the way they did while Bobby Hull claims he's a victim of the system. Mr. Joyce makes it clear that there is more to the story than "woe is me".

Mr. Joyce does some exceptional work in bringing to light the domestic issues going on behind the scenes in Hull's world and how these issues affected both his on-ice play and his career. His final days in Winnipeg resulting in a trade to Hartford came about through a stunning turn of events, and it is almost unbelievable how his career mirrors his personal life. Mr. Joyce does an excellent job in bringing forth this aspect in the later chapters, and he should be commended for his research and effort to show how Hull's career wound down at precisely the same time his marriage was falling apart. It's uncanny!

Everyone behind the scenes knew exactly why Hull had been away from the team and why he had announced his retirement. Everybody knew that it was Joanne and the marriage.
Mr. Joyce paints Hull as a man who absorbed a lot of physical and emotional pain from his days in hockey that has resulted in his anger towards certain factions of the hockey world. Sadly, the long-held image of Bobby Hull being the fun-loving, exuberant hockey legend is far from how he is portrayed in The Devil And Bobby Hull. At first, it seemed as though Mr. Joyce was quite negative in his views on Hull, but it becomes increasingly clear that Hull sees his life through rose-colored glasses when a dose of reality would do him good. Always the victim, Hull was ostracized, black-listed, and kept out of the NHL by a number of factors and men, all of whom conspired to ruin Hull's chance to be the best hockey player the world has ever seen. You get the sense, though, that this "coulda, woulda, shoulda" chatter has been practiced and polished one time too many for those that know the history of Bobby Hull.

The Devil And Bobby Hull is a fantastic book that does have a little colorful language splashed throughout its 266 pages. It's an interesting read, though, as you learn that appearances are not all they may appear to be with superstars. From his battles with hockey's establishments to his failing marriage to his lack of communication with his kids, Bobby Hull has literally lost a lot more than he gained from his life in hockey. While he stood on the shoulders of men as a young man with the booming slapshot in Chicago, The Devil And Bobby Hull goes to show that even the most glitzy stars are not without their tarnish. Because of this, The Devil And Bobby Hull absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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