DEVOUS BANQUET CENTER, MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO.
A woman pays her five dollars and comes up to Bobby Hull with a color photograph of the Golden Jet in a Blackhawks sweater and asks not only for his autograph but also for his thumbprint on the picture. "The last time I did that, it had ink on it," her hero says. "You know, those guys who make you go like this"—he holds his tree-trunk wrists together and laughs.
"You still look tough," another woman tells him.
"Tougher than a night in jail," Hull says chortling.
"I wouldn't know about a night in jail," the fan shrugs.
"Believe me," Hull says.
Twenty-five years after he overturned his sport, dragged it to corners of an uninterested continent, made many ordinary men rich and a few rich men much poorer, only Hull remains unchanged. And this is a man who, as he says, "was only smart enough to talk back to my wife."
"There are still things I want to do," Hull says. "I want to go to Italy and help my nephew crush grapes and drink some Chianti. I want to go to places where they don't know where Chicago is. I want to see Brett in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I want to see one of my grandsons follow suit."
Now we are in a quiet bar called Massa's, reflecting. "I came from an old-fashioned home," says Hull, one of 11 children and the father of eight, five by Joanne, who was his second wife. They were married in 1960 and divorced in 1980. Hull says he has regrets, not about Joanne but about what they destroyed. Suddenly, at 58, it is family that matters to him.
"I never dreamed that a man could live with a woman for so many years and raise a family with her and then break up," he says. "The two older boys understood, but Brett was right on the cusp when we split...."