Bobby Hull, Hockey Hall of Famer, had a rivalry with Cincinnati Stingers in 1970s
The NHL Alumni Association announced Monday that Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull died at age 84. "The Golden Jet," as he was nicknamed, became a legend with the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks. He made headlines when he jumped to the upstart World Hockey Association and the Winnipeg Jets in 1972.
Hull played for the Jets from the 1972-73 season until 1979-80. Four of those seasons happened to coincide with the Cincinnati Stingers, who played until 1978-79.
The future Hall-of-Famer was such a star that the Stingers' Jan. 31 home game was listed on their promotional schedule as "Bobby Hull Night." There was also a promotional nights for another legendary opponent, Gordie Howe.
All that goodwill went out the window following an Oct. 21, 1975 Stingers vs. Jets game in Winnipeg. The home team's "Hull's Angels" line of Hull, Anders Hedberg and and Ulf Nilsson led the way to a 7-0 win.
Although they might have been outclassed in one area, Stingers coach Terry Slater decided playing physical hockey was the answer. Stinger Dale Smedsmo high-sticked a Jets player 53 seconds in and the game's first fight broke out.
"When you hit a player, you slow him down," Slater explained his strategy to the Enquirer's David Fuselier.
Seconds later Stingers defenseman Mike Pelyk was sent to the penalty box for slashing. Winnipeg jumped out to a two goal lead and what followed next was "eight minutes of brutal body checking, both teams contributing evenly," the Enquirer reported.
Bobby Hull went on strike following Winnipeg Jets vs. Cincinnati Stingers game
Hull said he was temporarily stopping playing hockey in hopes that the WHA would take action against the "brutality" in hockey.
He said he was protesting the spread of "possibly inferior hockey players who intimidate good hockey players.
"Those guys don't want to play the game the way it should be played or maybe they haven't been brought up to play it the way it should be played - with good, hard skating, good passing and good shooting."
After being told of Hull's remarks, Stingers coach Terry Slater said, "I just hope he stays out until after we play them again up there next week."
Jets officials even threatened a lawsuit against the Stingers, according to an Enquirer report.
Bobby Hull's protest vs. WHA, Stingers lasted one game
Hull did sit out one game, but was back with the team in Winnipeg on Oct. 26.
His protest did bring about changes by the time the two teams met again on Oct. 30. Canadian politicians, most notably in the province of Ontario were outraged. The attorney-general declare the perpetrators of violent acts on the ice would be prosecuted.
WHA chief executive Ben Hatskin demanded the Stingers post a $5,000 bond before the game and said he would be watching the team's conduct closely.
Slater assigned forward Dale Smedsmo to shadow Hull during the game. Near the end of the game, Hull skated over to the Stingers' bench for a short confrontation with the coach.
"I called him an a------," the Enquirer reported Hull admitting. "Because he is. That isn't the way you play hockey, by having some second rate player harassing you all night."
Bobby Hull-Terry Slater rivalry continued throughout the season
In the Wednesday, Nov. 26 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Hull had no problem saying what he thought of the Stingers coach.
Hull said he's ruining the game of hockey through unnecessary violence.
"He's one of those who cause all these bad things to happen," the Enquirer quoted Hull. "You can't blame the players. They're just trying to do what they're told. You have to blame the people who tell them."
Hull and his teammates then put another beating on the Stingers later that night at Riverfront Coliseum, winning 11-3.
"What can I say?" Slater told the Enquirer after the game. "There isn't anything to say. We played terrible and they played great. That's it."
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Stingers had an enemy in Hockey HOFer Bobby Hull