During a practice about a month later, Fuhr made a similarly careless pass, and an unrepentant Hull yelled, "Hey, Fuhr, that's the same play that cost me my C!"
Stars players say Hull hasn't said anything like that in Dallas. At a recent morning practice before a road game against the Carolina Hurricanes, raucous laughter could be heard coming from the Stars' dressing room. Visitors found Hull leaning on a training table and entertaining his giggling teammates—political correctness be damned. "How are you doing?" Hull asked a reporter. Then Hull smiled and revealed a realistic-looking set of false teeth that gave him a goonish gap-toothed grin. Breaking into a hillbilly twang, Hull had his teammates howling by saying, "Just tryin' to fit in down here in Car-o-lina."
"I don't know if I think Hullie's funny," Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig says. "But I can tell you this: He sure thinks he is."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman scolded Hull last January after reading newspaper accounts in which Hull said the clutch-and-grab tactics employed by many teams are the reason "the games suck." Hull, who had just returned to action after missing a month because his hand had been broken by a slash, also said, "I wouldn't pay to watch. It's boring. The whole style of the game is terrible. There's no flow. When a guy like [Mario] Lemieux leaves the game and tells you why he's leaving, and you don't address it, that's stupid. But the players don't say crap. That's why I always look like the big mouth."
Asked at the time if he was worried that he might irk Bettman, Hull said, "They can't get rid of you because you say something."
Hull probably would have re-signed with the Blues had they budged from their comparatively low offer (three years, $15 million) and refusal to add a no-trade clause. At one time Hull captivated the city as Mark McGwire does today. "The way it ended hurt," says Hull.
In St. Louis, Hull was an eight-time All-Star, a three-time NHL goal-scoring champion and the 1990-91 league MVP. Like Gretzky, he's not particularly swift, but he's extremely smart on the ice. He excels at anticipating the action and making creative passes. When he gets the puck in shooting position, Hull snaps off one of the quickest, hardest one-timers in the game. "He's the absolute best I've seen doing that," says Mike Modano, Hull's new center.
Hull's 86 goals in '90-91 are the third-best single-season total in league history. With 555 career goals at week's end, he should surpass his father Bobby's total of 610, which is seventh on the alltime list. With his next hat trick, his 29th, he'll pass his dad and have sole possession of fifth place on that alltime list. But Brett's accomplishments come with an asterisk: None of his Blues teams advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
This summer St. Louis decided to change the course of the franchise. Veteran Blues defenseman Marc Bergevin said he didn't think the team would ever win the Cup with Hull because of his selfishness. Last season Hull was unhappy over the prospect of leaving the Blues, and during a training camp practice he fired a puck at coach Joel Quenneville. Hull was startled when Quenneville retaliated and fired it back. "I don't want to talk about it," Quenneville said tersely last week. "Brett and I addressed it. We moved on."
Or did they? Says Blues general manager Larry Pleau, "With anybody, not just Brett, if you give him a no-trade contract, you're giving the player more power than the coach, more power than the other players or management."