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March 21, 2013

Who's Better: Bobby Hull vs. Gordie Howe?

Here's an old Hockey Illustrated magazine from December 1966. The cover story blares "Who is the Greatest? Bobby Hull or Gordie Howe? It was an argument that would go on for 10 more years as the two superstars greatly impacted the hockey world until the late 1970s.

Nowadays we compare Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the very same light. There are some interesting comparables.

Ovechkin and Hull, both left wingers, are the flashiest and most flamboyant artists of the ice. They are not just great hockey players, able to score fantastic goals almost at will. They are entertainers. The NHL should never charge full price for a seat for one of their games, because you will rarely be sitting down with either of these two guys. They will have you either on the edge of your seat or standing in amazement all game long.

Howe and Crosby are similar, too, though not as conveniently so for this exercise. While I can already see comparing Ovechkin to Hull I would not put Crosby in the same mention of Mr. Hockey yet. But still their styles of games in that while they are not necessarily spectacular, they are efficient, complete and above all winners. The job gets done. Their greatness is perhaps not immediately noticeable, but to the trained eye they are perfect hockey players in every aspect of the game.

So who's better? Hull or Howe? History almost unfailingly gives Gordie the edge, probably because he had so much success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Who was more entertaining? The Golden Jet, hands down.


Anonymous said...

I will never forget the roar of the crowd at Chicago Stadium when ever Bobby Hull would take the puck the full length of the ice and then let go with one of his great slap shots!! Have yet to see anything that crowd exciting since!

J.E. said...

I think that this debate would still be raging today if Hull had not defected to the WHA in 1972 at which time he was rapidly chasing down Howe's scoring records. The NHL was extremely vindictive toward Hull after his departure and it was apparent that they were determined to diminish his super star status and historical significance to hockey. I refer to Hull's ineligibility for the 72 Summit Series (where his inclusion in the line up would have greatly enhanced Team Canada's scoring prowess); the total omission of his name or image for a decade during NHL telecasts; the 76 Canada Cup where Hull was the most prolific scorer and body checker despite being denied the puck so many times when he was in the clear at full speed (watch the footage in any game). I acknowledge the players at the top of the all time list such as Orr, Howe, Gretzky etc. but the name of Hull clearly belongs among them.

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