In 2013, I had a completely unexpected phone conversation with Bobby Hull, the superstar hockey player I idolized as a kid.
It’s a long story, but basically I owe the conversation to Matt Farmer and Bob Fioretti.
Matt was the one who informed me that in the aftermath of the Blackhawks winning the championship that year, then-mayor Rahm Emanuel erroneously referred to Bobby Hull in the past tense.
As though Hull were dead—when he was very much alive.
I had some fun writing about Rahm’s boo-boo. A few days later, Alderman Bob Fioretti bumped into Hull at a restaurant, told him about my article, and called me on his cell.
Which is how I wound up talking to the man once known as the Golden Jet.
Turned out that Bobby Hull had a decent sense of humor. “I want you to know that no matter what the mayor might say, I’m alive and doing well,” he told me. “I don’t know where he got the idea that I was deceased.”
I took the opportunity to tell Bobby that back in the late 60s and early 70s, I was a ferocious Blackhawks fan. But after the Hawks basically ran him out of town in a contract dispute, I got so upset that I quit following the team. And I hadn’t followed them since, no matter how many championships they won.
To which Bobby Hull gave me sound advice . . .
“Benny, let it go,” he said. “Forty years is enough.”
So, I promised him I would go back to being a Hawks fan.
Alas, I fell short of that promise. Nothing against the Hawks. I’ve changed. There are other things I’d rather do with my time than watch hockey. No matter what I told my childhood hero.
My buddy Norm teases me about it all the time. Norm says, “I’m gonna tell the Golden Jet you broke your promise, Benny.”
Good thing Norm didn’t have Bobby Hull’s cell number.
Anyway, Hull really did die the other day. At the age of 84.
The Sun-Times obit by Ben Pope said Hull’s last year was rough, as his past caught up with him. Turns out Bobby Hull, my great childhood hero, was a bigot, an alcoholic, and violently abusive to two of his ex-wives. Years ago, he allegedly beat one of them over the head with a steel-heeled shoe and held her over a balcony. The Blackhawks had hired him to be a team ambassador. But when the team had its own sex scandal (not related to Hull), they cut their ties with him. When he died, Hull was in hockey exile. As for me, well, I felt a little embarrassed to have been so excited by his call.
After word broke that Hull had died, I heard from Bob Fioretti and Matt Farmer.
Fioretti called to ask if I would send him the Reader article I wrote about my phone conversation with Bobby Hull. Here it is, Bob.
And Matt texted me an obit about Bobby Hull, along with the following comment: “Please let Rahm know.”
Good one, Matt. Consider it done.