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By adopting a playing style so dissimilar to his father's, was Brett turning his back on Bobby? After an acrimonious divorce from Brett's mother, Joanne, in 1979, when Brett was 15, father and son had little contact for the next eight years.
"No, I wasn't trying to get back at him," says Brett. "See, that's a weird thing about me. I don't really get ticked off at anyone. I've never been in a fistfight. Don't have it in me."
Brett's distinctive style was part necessary adjustment—he is nowhere near the skater the Golden Jet was—and part defense mechanism. "This way, if anyone said to me, 'You're not as good as your Dad,' I could say, 'I don't play like him, so how could you compare us?' "
Well, we could start with numbers. In 16 NHL seasons, Bobby scored 610 goals. At his current pace, Brett, a right wing, will reach that number in less than nine seasons. He has put together two successive 70-plus-goal seasons, a feat previously accomplished in league history only by Gretzky and Lemieux. The elder Hull never cracked the 60-goal barrier.
"We have represented other 70-goal scorers," says Mike Barnett, the International Management Group agent who represents Hull and Gretzky. " Bernie Nicholls and Lanny McDonald [he actually scored 66]. No one other than Wayne has generated the corporate interest Brett has." In addition to an endorsement deal with Coca-Cola, Hull is a spokesman for a brand of trading cards. This summer, Tiger Electronics will unveil its Gretzky versus Hull hand-held one-on-one video game.
Gretzky has long been regarded as an ambassador for his sport. Hull is in the process of having such a role thrust upon him, and he's taking the added responsibilities in stride. After a recent off-day practice, most Blues showered and went home. Hull spent an hour answering fans' requests for autographs then drove to Granite City, Ill., a depressed steel town 10 miles north of St. Louis. Hull's assignment: to sign autographs at the grand opening of the new Shop 'n Save. He arrives, sits, takes a felt-tipped pen in his left hand and is transformed into an autographing machine.
"You say your name's Rat?" he asks a seven-year old. "That's a funny name."
"No, Matt", M-a-t-t."
The boy is speechless. "What do you say," his mother hisses. The young man issues a feeble "Thank you, Mr. Hull." A surprising number of the kids fail to say thank you. They're not ingrates; they're just totally awed. And not everyone today is speechless: Three decidedly unbashful young women in Granite City High letter jackets make sure that Hull is well within earshot when they take turns passing judgment on him: