ST. LOUIS – Three years after the St. Louis Blues retired Brett Hull’s No. 16 jersey, they honoured him again for his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“They’re probably sick of seeing me,” Hull said Tuesday night before a ceremony that also honoured his Blues dream team. “But I love being back. This is probably the last time I’ll be on that ice, and it’s going to be a great feeling.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re scoring a goal or standing there in a suit, for them to cheer it’s the greatest feeling ever.”
Hull received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd before the Blues played the Calgary Flames, the team that traded him to St. Louis in 1987. Wayne Gretzky, Brendan Shanahan and Curtis Joseph were among former teammates in attendance.
The Blues announced they had commissioned a statue of Hull that will join likenesses of Bernie Federko and Al MacInnis outside the Scottrade Center.
“The St. Louis Blues will be indelibly stamped on my heart until the day they bury me in this ground,” Hull told the crowd. “You’ve got a world class organization and they are going to lead you to where you want to be, and to where we all wanted to be.”
Hull’s decade with the Blues ended on a sour note following repeated clashes with then coach Mike Keenan. One fan shouted, “I hate Mike Keenan!” during a brief pause during Hull’s speech.
Hull said he and Keenan met this summer and cleared the air.
“I’m way too old. I don’t hold grudges,” Hull said. “We had a great talk. I always said this: ‘I hated him as a coach, but he’s a really good human being.’ I’ve got no problem with Mike anymore.”
Hull couldn’t resist taking a shot at Keenan’s coaching philosophy. Keenan converted Hull, who scored 72, 86 and 70 goals in a three-season span beginning in 1989-90, to play a two-way game.
“I’ll go to my grave saying he didn’t have a clue to what he was doing,” Hull said. “I never understood what he was doing, and it showed, I think, in what happened. If you look at the record and the people that went in and out and how things ended up, I think you’ll see that.”
Hull won the Stanley Cup twice as a player, with Detroit and Dallas. Now an executive vice-president with the Stars, he is trying to win it a third time.
“It’s the hardest thing in sports to do,” Hull said. “It’s not like you can just say you’re going to do it. We have Joe Nieuwendyk as our GM now, and I think he’s a guy that knows what he’s doing, and we’re going to get ‘er done.”
Despite Hull’s prolific scoring, the Blues never made it past the second round of the playoffs during his time with the franchise.
“I’m not going to get all dreamy and say we were on the cusp because you never know,” Shanahan said. “We all wished we won one here, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Joseph knows it wasn’t Hull’s fault.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to play against him during those heydays,” he said.