Although other individual Hawks are normally jealous of their own totals, they genuinely want Hull to break the scoring record for a quite simple reason: whenever Hull scores, the whole team moves a little bit closer to that elusive first NHL championship it came so close to winning last year.
Thanks in part to Hull's performance and in part to an idea of his, the Black Hawks stand a pretty fair chance of breaking the alltime team scoring record of 259 goals set by Montreal in the season of 1961-62. The gimmick Chicago is using to accomplish this trick is Bobby's own "hooked" hockey stick. Unlike most sticks, whose blades are almost flat, Hull's has a curve in it, which, he says, enables him to get better control of the puck. Actually the curve is only five-sixteenths off the straight, but it gives the shooter the feeling that he is catching the puck and then throwing it at the goal, like a lacrosse or jai alai player. Most of the Black Hawks are now using these hooked sticks. "They used to take the old sticks," said Dennis Hull last week, "and put them under their doors at night so they would get a little bend in them. Then they started to have the manufacturers bend them for them. Most of us can feel the difference in sticks, and the bent ones do give you more control. But Bobby," added the star's brother in sudden solemnity, "could score with anything."
Bobby himself has a sort of intuition about his talents. "There are nights," he says, "when I can tell long before a game how it is going to go. When you first go out onto the ice in the warmup you can tell. If your legs feel light you kind of smile to yourself and you take great joy in skating around and getting warm. When I go back down into the dressing room 15 minutes before the game I often say to Dennis, 'I feel he's got it tonight; I feel he's got it tonight.' Dennis laughs and sometimes he kids me by sending the word down the line, 'The Rolls-Royce is going to roll tonight.'
"I guess it all begins the morning of a game when Billy has his meeting. Sometimes it's in the hotel, sometimes it's at the arena. He goes over the opponents and talks of the good things we did the last time we played them and the bad things, too. I think about it all and slowly begin to get myself up for the game. I don't growl or pound my fist into my hands. The enemy just stays in my mind and I think about what I might do and what kind of mistakes they made on me last time.
"Sure, I sometimes think about Pointe Anne and how I used to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning when the house was dark and I'd take my skates and go on the ice alone. I guess I was no more than 5 years old. It used to be cold when I got back and I would build a fire to get my hands warm. For a non-Canadian this might seem silly but not for a Canadian. I think of my father and how he gave up what might have been a great career in pro hockey to raise a family. I thank him. I remember the games I played in the Juniors at St. Catherine's and how he and Mum would come to the games, and Mum would sit at one end of the rink and my father would sit at the other.
"He would take the end where we would be shooting on the net twice and when the games were over he would say, 'You only had two goals, you should have had five!' Mum would say, 'Nice game, son.' I think things like this when I am getting myself up for a game, and my wife says that when we are on the way I'm like some stranger who does not see what she sees because my mind is out on the ice.
"People ask me do I get tired of being interviewed or interrupted on my days off," says Bobby, "and the answer is no. If people think enough of me to want to shake my hand or talk to me or interview me then time must be made for it. Everyone asks, 'Do you think you can break the record?' I think so. I hope so, but it doesn't seem to be putting pressure on me. The goals are in the stick. All I have to do is shake them out."