by Richard McAdam

It’s not every day that you get to spend some time with one of the game’s all-time greats, listening to stories of Stanley Cup triumphs, being the first million dollar superstar, and other memories of a life in hockey. For a hundred lucky fans, myself included, last Saturday, February 18th, was one of those days. As part of their National Hockey Card Day festivities, Players Choice Sports in Kelowna invited Chicago Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull for a public autograph session and meet & greet opportunity.

For nearly three hours, Hull would cheerily sign photos, pucks, jerseys and other memorabilia while regaling fans with vivid memories of some of his finest moments on the ice. Whether talking about the 1961 Stanley Cup victory, which came so early in his career that he thought it would be a regular thing (strangely, it wasn’t, as it was the only Cup he would win as a player), or recalling his 51st goal in a season and receiving a prolonged standing ovation, Hull’s stories were engaging and really made sure that fans got their money’s worth for the visit. It may not have moved the line quickly, but unlike a lot of current players, Hull would make ample time for everybody, especially families that had young kids that would never have seen Hull play but still knew his name. Some of those aspiring hockey players will hopefully take that lesson for themselves one day when they become big stars.

As I was on the staff for the day, I got to hear every story Hull told people. It was awesome. I nearly choked up when he was talking about Jean Beliveau, and I couldn’t suppress a Cheshire cat grin when he was talking about the last game of the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals and how the Hawks lost a 2-0 lead because coach Billy Reay had on the ice the wrong players “instead of Chico Maki and Bobby Hull,” and the club was helpless when “Pocket [Henri Richard] slipped through the defence and scored the winning goal.” Go Habs Go! It was also really funny to hear him talk about the 1972 Summit Series, where he was blocked from playing because he had gone to the WHL. He felt that if he and “another Bobby, Mr. Orr” were in the Series, “Canada would have wiped the floor with those Russians.” He had so many stories, it’s difficult to remember all of them, but those are a couple that stood out for me. Luckily, there was some local radio and TV people there to film things, and I’m happy to share these with people

First, my radio pals at 103.9 Juice FM got a really fun 6-minute interview:

You can see the very cool ring that the Blackhawks organization gave to Bobby after the 2015 Stanley Cup Championship. It is HUGE! I got to put it on, and it’s really a very cool piece of history to be able to see something like that up-close and even wear it. This is the same ring that Keith, Toews, and Kane got, and Bobby’s has his name emblazoned on the side of it. And I’ll tell you, listening to Bobby talk about those guys has me excited to see them at the Bell Centre in March!

The second interview was done by the local Shaw TV news channel for Global TV.

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Here you’ll get to see Bobby open up some National Hockey Card Day packs, re-create an iconic hockey moment with the interviewer with his famous “banana blade” stick, and talk about the Winnipeg Jets and Seabiscuit. And if you look hard enough during the video, you’ll see some guy in a Team Canada jersey and Canadiens hat having a really great time soaking it all in.

When the public session was over it was finally my time to get a couple minutes with Bobby and get something signed. We had picked out a whole bunch of great shots for people to choose from, and I went with a great 11x14 photo of Bobby with the Stanley Cup. Great shot and he put down some really nice ink and a 61 Cup Champions inscription. And I was really happy to get this photo with him:

Definitely a great day for the history books for a lot of hockey fans here in Kelowna. It’s always cool to see the pictures and stories people share on social media after these events, and knowing that we all got to share in that experience together in some way.