Golden Jet high on hockey after returning to Chicago

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

A million dollars lured him away.

All it took to bring Bobby Hull back to the Chicago Blackhawks was a phone call.

"I left Chicago in 1972," said Hull, alluding to the lucrative contract handed to him by the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets.

"Thirty-some years later, I get a phone call from John McDonough, who had just recently been hired (as team president) by (owner) Rocky Wirtz, to ask me if I'd consider coming back and being an ambassador for the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I never ever thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever be back in the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

"But it's wonderful."

So is the reception Hull receives from Hawks fans when he takes in a game and sees himself on the big screen over centre ice.

They forgive him for jumping to the WHA, and he's ecstatic to see a team that is as exciting as the one he helped to the franchise's last Stanley Cup in 1961.

"To see the kind of team they put together, and to see the way the fans have come back in throngs -- there were about six- or eight-thousand people (in the stands) before Rocky took over, and now there's 23,600-plus every night at the United Center.

"And just howling."

They have a lot to cheer for.

Eliminating the Calgary Flames six games into the opening round to claim their first NHL playoff series victory since 1996, the young Blackhawks took yet another step toward the glory years of Hawks hockey.

In town to help promote the Golden Baseball League's Vipers -- who have ties to some of his friends from Winnipeg -- Hull was going to watch Game 5 between the Hawks and the Vancouver Canucks from a Joey Tomatoes restaurant last night in Calgary.

It's more fun at the United Center, where the volume hits a fever pitch during the singing of the national anthem.

"If you thought that was loud," he told a reporter who was in Chicago for the Game-5 victory over the Flames, "you were too young to remember the old Chicago Stadium.

"That ... was. ... loud."

But the new fans are doing the historic atmosphere of the old building justice.

"Oh yes, they are," said Hull, who's seen his fair share of games there since Wirtz and McDonough brought him back in the fold a year ago. "They're trying to.

"It's just a fabulous thing to see the response of the Chicago fans before the games, and especially now in the playoffs."

They have a lot to cheer for.

Led by a young core collection of players like captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Brent Seabrook, the team is proving to be a special one.

"I believe it is the type of individuals they put together ... a group of young players that are just out there having fun," Hull said. "They like one other, and they like playing with one another and for one another. They don't know, I don't think, how important this is to them."

They never seem to be out of games, even when they get behind by a few goals.

It might not trouble them, but Hull has a hard time when they come out flat.

"They don't come to play sometimes, and it just aggravates the hell out of me. I worry about it more than they do, apparently," Hull said with a smile. "My wife says, 'Will you quit it? You're gonna have a heart attack worrying about those kids.'

"I just get so upset ... and then, bingo, they get one goal, and they get two or three more. Just like nothing ever happened."

Sort of like Hull and his renewed relationship with the Blackhawks.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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