Finally, four games after he had tied the record he shared for most goals in a single National Hockey League season, Bobby Hull has the mark all to himself. The blonde superstar, the man they call the Golden Jet, set the standard last night in Chicago. He scored at 5:34 of the third period in the Black Hawks’ game against the New York Rangers and Chicago Stadium literally exploded at that second.
“Greatest Ovation Ever”
One veteran New York sportscaster called it “the greatest ovation ever accorded an athlete in any sport.” The standing tribute by over 20,000 fans went on, uninterrupted, for seven minutes and 33 seconds. The noise was deafening.
After the goal had been announced and the applause and cheering swelled, Hull grabbed the puck and headed directly to the Chicago bench. Teammates hugged and clapped him on the back.
Finally, at the urging of his mates and every other human in the rink, as the noise began to subside, Hull reappeared on the ice. The man of the hour made his way down the boards to where his wife was sitting at the end of the ice where the famous organ is located. She kissed her husband’s hand through the glass to more wild cheering from the assembled throng.
As he skated back toward the Chicago bench, Hull donned a hat that had been tossed onto the ice, and another wild cheer erupted. There had never been another moment quite like this that anyone at this game could recall. This was truly hockey history in the making.
Hull: Didn’t Get Good Wood on It
Hull described the goal thusly after the match:
“I got the puck from Lou Angotti just outside their blue line, circled and moved down centre. The Ranger defenders backed in and I moved 10 feet over their blue line. I moved the puck out front for the slap shot.
“I got it out too far and almost topped it. Didn’t get real good wood on the thing and it skidded away, skimming the ice. I watched it all the way into the corner of the net but wasn’t sure if it hit Eric Nesterenko on the way in.
“When the announcer said ‘Goal by Bobby Hull’ a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I can’t describe the wonderful warm feeling I got when those fans let loose. I’ll never forget that ovation. I have never heard anything like it and don’t think I ever will again.”
The goaltender who surrendered the record tally was Rangers Cesare Maniago. Coincidentally, this was Maniago’s second rendezvous with hockey history. He was the netminder between the pipes the night Bernie Geoffrion notched his 50th goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960-61 season.
Maniago said that Nesterenko made the play that made the goal possible:
“I saw the puck all the way. I intended to play the damn thing with my stick and just at the crucial second Nesterenko cut across from my left and lifted my stick. I thought for a time the puck had gone in off him. He gave me no chance to make a play.”
Reporters asked the lanky goalkeeper how he felt to have participated in such a historic moment.
“I didn’t feel as bad as when Maki scored the winner. I’m already in the record book for Boom Boom Geoffrion’s 50th goal, so one more won’t make any difference. It’s those winning goals that will give a goalkeeper nightmares.”
Angotti, who passed the puck to Hull and received the assist on the play, wasn’t even on the ice when the puck went into the net. He shoveled his pass to Hull and went directly to the bench.
“Imagine me getting an assist on the big goal and being able to watch it from the players bench.
“Bill Hay shot the puck up the boards. I kicked it away from Reg Fleming to Hull. When Bobby fielded it I headed for the bench to let Stan Mikita come on the ice. And I just got there in time to see history made.”
Hawks Win 4-2
Hull’s magic marker tied the score at 2-2 in a bitterly fought game that Chicago won 4-2. He had five shots at Maniago before the sixth finally crossed the line.
The teams battled through a scoreless opening frame. The Rangers scored twice in the second period to lead 2-0 heading in the final 20 minutes. Don Marshall and Billy Hicke had the New York markers.
Chico Maki scored just before the three-minute mark of the third to get the Hawks on the board. Maki’s goal ended a goalless drought of 228 minutes and 55 seconds. That score seemed to release the tension for the Chicago squad and it looked that now it would only be a matter of time before the Hawks really cut loose.
That’s exactly what happened. Hull tied it up at 5:34 and at that moment, the game score was secondary. But after the celebration died down and the teams returned to the task at hand, it was Chicago’s game.
Maki notched his second of the game, and the game-winner just about two minutes after Hull scored. Doug Mohns added insurance at 10:41 and the issue was no longer in doubt.
Bobby Hull is the ideal superstar for a sport and a league that is hoping to make major inroads into the sports landscape in the United States. He is blonde, good-looking and a spectacular player in a spectacular sport.
He is a perfect ambassador for the game. Always affable with fans, Hull signs autographs long after others have departed from the scene. He is a great interview for scribes who dog him endlessly. Although some have described him as a bit testy as the quest for the record drew on, he is still that same person he was before his chase for the 51st began.
Hull grew up in Point Anne, Ontario, not far from Belleville. He is the eldest of 11 children. He left home at 14 to play in a Chicago-sponsored team in Hespeler, Ontario.
He moved to the Junior A ranks at St. Catharines for the 1955-56 season and made his NHL debut with the Black Hawks in the 1957-58 season at age 18.