If there’s anyone who has played in the NHL who knows what it’s like to be a young superstar who was snapped by a short leash, it’s Brett Hull. St. Louis’ top goal scorer in franchise history felt he was hampered by coach Mike Keenan’s tight style and extraordinary abrasive personality. He departed at the end of the 1997-1998 season for the Dallas Stars, and was promptly rewarded with Ken Hitchcock.
Despite the fact that Hull wound up with the second lowest point total in his career (just 58) under Hitchcock’s system, he obviously doesn’t care about that any more – he won the Stanley Cup. In hockey, that – not personal numbers are showing off – is the number one goal.
“He’s the best X’s and O’s coach, showing you how to beat the other team, that I ever played for,” said Hull, who played for Hitchcock in Dallas. “Every game, we were prepared and ready to beat the other team.”
That’s not to say that Hull understood that right away.
“For guys like Joe Nieuwendyk and myself, we really had to figure out how to do it,” Hull said. “It takes a little bit of time. It takes a full-time commitment to that game.”
Full-time commitment. That’s something that as the years have progressed and the kids’ve gotten older (but not necessarily more mature) people’ve questioned. Bernie Miklasz, in a scathing op-ed, refers to the youth and how they’re marketed (and possibly how they view themselves) as “terminal cuteness” and “little darlings.” That’ll end super quickly under Hitchcock.
The youth’d do well to listen to Hull:
“The hardest thing for the young skill guys is that some of their freedom will go away, and their numbers will take a hit,” Hull said. “But when you see those wins pile up you forget about it.”