Before the Canada Cup's vigorous international competition ended (SI, Sept. 27), Bobby Hull, who jumped from the National Hockey League to the World Hockey Association four years ago, said pungently, "It's a shame that after this we'll have to go back to having so many bad games in both our leagues, games where people fall asleep or just sit on their hands. You look at all the good things that happened in this series and you wish we could have this type of competition all the time. That's why it's such a crime we can't see all the best players in all the best cities all the time, like the old days, when every game was a fantastic spectacle."
Hull wants a merger of the NHL and WHA. "I believe it will happen," he says. "It's got to. We could eliminate the weak franchises in both leagues, get rid of the 100 or so jerks who just play for the money and don't put anything back into the game, and we'd have something good again.
"I'm happy I played a part in getting the WHA off the ground because it helped in some ways. But in other ways it hurt, and that bothers me. I don't know whether I'd do it all over again. I'm somewhat restless now."
THIS WAS MUCH FISH
This is a story of failure, but what a failure. Hugh Foster, a 33-year-old Barbadian who works for IBM in the Virgin Islands, is a sports fisherman who boated more than two dozen marlin last year. In September he entered an annual bill-fish tournament off Puerto Rico that is staged by the San Juan Yacht Club. Fishing from Captain Johnny Helms' 40-foot Star Trek II, Foster caught a 395-pound blue marlin on the second day of competition and at 2:45 p.m. of the third day hooked into another big fish. At first, seeing only the tip of its dorsal fin, Foster guessed this one might weigh 300 to 350 pounds, but when it surfaced and he saw its massive head he upped the estimate to 600 pounds. The world record for Atlantic blue marlin taken on 50-pound-test, which Foster was using, is 666 pounds. When the fish leaped clear of the water for the first time, the estimate went up again, sharply. "Frankly," said Foster, "it scared me." Pike Herbert, the mate, said, "The head alone would go to 600 pounds." Chris Styn, another fisherman on board, said he had seen a 1,200-pound black marlin in South Africa and that this fish was bigger. Ralph Oldfield, acting as Foster's gaff man, said, "It was a horrible fish, a violent fish."
Two hours after it was hooked, the marlin was close enough to be gaffed, but Oldfield failed to connect. Throughout the afternoon and night Foster brought the marlin close to the boat more than 50 times, but each time it pulled away again, stripping 500 yards of line from the reel as it did so. At 9 p.m., six hours after it was hooked, the fish put on a spectacular display of jumping. "I never saw water stirred up like that by a fish," Foster said. "It looked like someone had dropped a building in the ocean." At four in the morning the marlin almost leaped into the Star Trek, its pectoral fin brushing the gunwale as it fell.
By dawn Foster was stiff and sore, his arms cramped, his legs weary, his body crying for sleep. At 8 a.m. he decided to force the issue. He tightened the drag to try to bring the fish close to the boat again, but the line snapped and the marlin was gone.
Oldfield was chagrined by his failure and Helms, who had fished with Hemingway and Castro, was crestfallen because his boat had lost such a magnificent specimen.
But Foster, who had fought the huge marlin for 17 hours and 15 minutes, was exhilarated, almost jubilant after the sustained excitement of the long struggle. "This was a nice fish," he said. "I got to know him so well."