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Brett Hull joins Hockey Hall of Fame

UMD Athletic Director Bob Nielson (left) motions as Brett Hull watches his number 29 being raised to the rafters of the DECC during a Bulldogs game against Wisconsin in 2006. Hull is only the second Bulldog to have his number retired; the other being Keith "Huffer" Christiansen. (File / News Tribune)

Seven-hundred and forty-one goals.

Those credentials opened the Hockey Hall of Fame door to Brett Hull in his first year of eligibility.

But when he walks through the door at 6 p.m. Monday in Toronto, part of the 2009 induction class, the Golden Brett will be remembered as an NHL superstar who was much more than a sharpshooter.

"He had great durability, which you need in order to score that many goals, because you are constantly targeted and getting beaten up. But his playmaking skills were vastly underrated. He was a fabulous passer," said Norm Maciver of Duluth, a former Minnesota Duluth defenseman and teammate of Hull's and an NHL opponent for a decade. "Teams built their power plays around Brett because he was such a good shooter, but could just as easily have been the set-up guy."

Hull, 45, joins players Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman, and coach and administrator Lou Lamoriello in being honored on hockey's highest level.

For just the second time, the Hall of Fame will house a father and son. Bobby Hull, 70, enshrined­ in 1983, recorded 610 NHL goals and 303 in the defunct World Hockey Association. That's 1,654 goals combined for the Hulls as professionals. (And if you add Dennis Hull, 64, Bobby's younger brother, that's another 303 goals.) Brett ranks No. 3 in NHL history, behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801), while Bobby is No. 15.

But Brett Hull also had 650 assists for 1,391 points in 1,269 regular-season games.

"Brett was able to outthink other players; that's the genius of his game. That's what sets great players like him and Gretzky apart from others. They're strong athletes, who can handle the grind over a long period," said former NHL defenseman and UMD All-American Tom Kurvers. "The great players play hurt and still score goals, Stanley Cup-winning goals, and that's how you get rings on your fingers.

"Brett helped the game get better, he helped the NHL get better. His induction class has the best players of my generation and they had the talent and worked as hard as any of the players who came before them."

Right winger Brett Hull played slightly more than

19 seasons with Calgary, St. Louis, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix, winning Stanley Cups in Dallas (1999) and Detroit (2002), before retiring after five games with Phoenix in 2005. He was part of two U.S. Olympic teams, including a silver medal team in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. After working as co-general manger for the Dallas Stars for less than two years, Hull was named team executive vice-president and alternate governor earlier this year.

Coming to Duluth

As he told the story to the News Tribune in 1984, Hull was ready to quit hockey as a teenager, but was coaxed by friend Ally Cook to try out with the Penticton Knights of the British Columbia Hockey League. Hull had 48 goals in 50 games with Penticton in 1982-83, then an incredible 105 goals in 57 games in 1983-84.

He had been living with his mother, Joanne Robinson, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and came to UMD as a freshman in 1984-85, after getting scholarship offers from 15 colleges. Cook went to Michigan Tech.

"The minute I saw Duluth I knew it was exactly what I was looking for," Hull said in 2005. "It had the small-town feel and the people were wonderful. It was everything I wanted."

In his brief two years, he had 84 goals in 90 games, including a UMD season record 52 in 1985-86.

Hull snapped a boatload of sticks during that time; Bobby came to watch on occasion; Sports Illustrated made a trip to the DECC; a Duluth police radar gun was brought in to gauge his wicked shot; and he broke the jaw of teammate Mike DeAngelis, who was too close to the net during a shooting drill.

Coaches Mike Sertich, Jim Knapp and Glenn Kulyk were amazed at the smiling, smooth-striding, getting-more-glib-by-the-day Hull. The Bulldogs were 62-22-6 during his stay.

"I think Brett found himself while he was here. He was no longer Bobby Hull's son; he became Brett Hull," Sertich said.

Hull was taken by Calgary in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, 117th overall, and signed immediately after the end of the 1985-86 season.

"UMD and Mike Sertich paved the way for me to make it to the NHL," Hull said in 2005. "I often regret that I wasn't able to spend more time [in Duluth], but if I wanted to turn pro, I had to go when I did."

Hull met Duluthian Alison Curran when he was a 20-year-old UMD freshman. They married in 1997 and have three children: son, Jude, 15; and daughters Jayde, 13, and Crosby, 11, who live in Stillwater, Minn. The couple separated in 2000, remain friends, and Brett Hull married Darcie Schollmeyer in 2006. They live in Dallas.

UMD hockey jersey No. 29 was retired in 2006 and Hull was at the DECC when a replica was raised to the rafters. Hull still owns a home on Pike Lake and occasionally visits here and may be found playing golf at Northland Country Club or Ridgeview Country Club.

Hitting the post

Kurvers was playing for Montreal in the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs when Hull debuted in the NHL. On his first shift in his first game with Calgary, Hull hit a goal pipe. However he played just 57 games with the Flames before being traded to St. Louis, where he stayed for 11 years and became a scoring machine.

Kurvers, 47, now assistant general manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, played 659 games in the NHL through 1995 and saw a lot of Hull. So did Maciver, 45, now director of player development for the Chicago Blackhawks, who played in 500 games through 1998.

"When Brett got into the league it looked just easy for him," Kurvers said.

Former NHL winger Bill Watson had the best consecutive scoring years in UMD history just before Hull and with Hull. Watson totaled 86 points in 1984-85 and 109 in 1984-85, and went on to play 115 NHL games through 1989. He also had a look at Hull from an opposing bench.

"There were times when you heard Brett couldn't do this or couldn't do that, or couldn't play defense. But what he did was find places on the ice other players couldn't," said Watson, 45, a financial planner in Duluth. "He developed into a tremendous force and played well in every facet of the game."

Hull had a career-best 86 goals in 78 games with St. Louis in 1990-91, during which newspaper reporter Kevin Allen collaborated with the goal-scorer for a book "Brett Hull: Shootin' and Smilin." The season before he had 72 goals, the season after 70. That's 228 goals in 231 games.

Winger Jamie Langenbrunner of Cloquet, who already has played in 898 NHL games at age 34 and scored 211 goals, talked with NHL.com recently about Hull. The two were teammates for three years in Dallas:

"Brett was one of the most interesting guys I've ever played with as far as not being afraid to say what was on his mind," said Langenbrunner, captain of the New Jersey Devils. "But that shot of his -- second to none. He would try to help guys with what he thought was the reason he shot the puck so hard, telling us we used wimpy sticks. I remember using his stick a few times, but I couldn't even get [the puck] off the ice."

On Monday, Hull will be in the bright lights as he's offered congratulations from NHL luminaries. He'll have many friends in Duluth who also will be beaming, guys like former UMD linemate Skeeter Moore and former teammate Jim Toninato.

"I'd love to be in Toronto, but I know Brett will be so busy," said Toninato, 45, who played 155 games for UMD from 1982-86. "If I was there, I'd just take a couple of seconds to give him a hug and say 'Atta boy.' ''