On Monday night Detroit Red Wings forward Brett Hull became the sixth player in NHL history to score 700 or more goals, but his raspy voice might command as much attention as his booming shot. The league faces serious problems—constipated offenses, uneven officiating, the shaky finances of several franchises, the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement next year—and the outspoken Hull, 38, isn't shy about commenting on them. Here is his view, after 17 seasons, on where the league is and where it should be going.
SI: You've joined an exclusive club: Wayne Gretzky (894 goals), Gordie Howe (801), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Mike Gartner (708). How does it feel?
HULL: To be among that group is incredible. I don't like to compare myself to those guys, because all I do is score goals. Having 700 goals, you'd think I'd have a lot of assists too. But I'm not even at 600 [588 through Monday]. The best thing about my career is the two Stanley Cups I've won. When players talk about a guy with big numbers, all they care about is, Did he win?
SI: What does your style say about you?
HULL: You look at me and the last word that probably comes to mind is tough, but to score you have to be tough, because you have to take abuse without getting frustrated. To stand in front of the net and take the whacks and cross-checks and get open, find your spot and score—that's toughness.
SI: With NHL scoring trending down—5.30 goals per game this season compared to 7.34 when you were a rookie in 1986-87—do you think you would ever reach 700 if you broke into the league today?
HULL: I could probably squeak out a couple of 50-goal years. But it would be a couple of 50s, a couple of 40s, a couple of 30s. There's six years right there, and I would have only around 240.
SI: Can any young player today approach 700 career goals?
HULL: Jarome Iginla [of the Calgary Flames] got 50 last year, and what's he got now? He's got 20? It's not because he's not good. It's because of the way the game is played. Look at [32-year-old Dallas Stars center] Mike Modano. I feel sorry for him. He's played his whole [14-year] NHL career with a conservative team during a stifling defensive period. He could have reached 600 goals [at week's end he had 439] because he's so gifted, but it was always defense, defense, defense.
SI: Do you feel lucky to have played part of your career in a more wide-open era?