Ask any St. Louis sports fan who grew up during the 1990’s to rattle off the moments that defined the decade and instantly trigger the goosebumps to this day:
A carefree backflip by The Wizard, Big Mac’s power surge at Busch Stadium, and a grocery store stock boy leading the Rams to an unlikely Super Bowl victory.
Oh, and the goal-scoring display Brett Hull put on for the fans on a regular basis.
The NHL Network recently acknowledged Mr. Hull’s well-known hockey exploits as he was named the top goal-scorer of the ‘90s on the channel’s “Countdown” program earlier this month. Hull managed to secure the top spot ahead of 29 other worthy contemporaries such as Pavel Bure, Teemu Selanne, Eric Lindros, Cam Neely, Mario Lemieux, and the ageless Jaromir Jagr.
The numbers seem convincing enough to back up Hull’s honor. He notched 494 goals in 713 games, the most by any player across the 10-year span. He joined the 50/50 club (50 goals in 50 games) twice (1990-91 & 1991-92) and tallied 70 or more goals in three consecutive seasons. Hull’s trademark campaign occurred within his 70-goal stretch when he netted an astounding 86 goals in the 1990-91 season. That season, Hull accumulated the third highest single-season goal-scoring mark in NHL history, with Wayne Gretzky already claiming the top two slots (92 in 1981-82 and 87 in 1983-84). His 86 goals accounted close to 30 percent of the Blues’ cumulative goal totals in 1990-91, earning the right winger his first and only Hart Trophy (NHL’s Most Valuable Player) in his illustrious season.
Remarkably, Hull never scored an empty-net goal or a short-handed goal by way of a penalty kill opportunity in the 86-goal season. As for Gretzky’s record-setting season of 92 goals, 11 were empty-net goals and six were short-handed goals via the penalty kill.
Of course, you certainly have to give linemate Adam Oates credit where credit is due developing Hull into a perennial goal-scoring machine. Oates assisted 41 of Hull’s 86 goals in 1990-91. In the end, however, it’s their complete body of work together that is a gem in itself. For two and a half melodic seasons (1989-90 to Feb. 1992), Hull notched 212 goals with Oates racking up 94 assists from a goal by No. 16.
The days of “Hull & Oates” were a wonderful time to be a fan of the St. Louis Blues’ harmonic brand of hockey.
“The chemistry Adam and I had was … it was just ridiculous,” Hull said to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch back in 2011. “It just felt like every time we were on the ice, we had a serious chance of scoring a goal.”
“I don’t think the numbers do it justice,” Adam Oates told NHL.com in 2012. “He was just a fantastic hockey player and we had great chemistry. The year he scored 86 goals (1990-91), I can’t tell you how good that was. Statistically, he scored every night — fantastic.”
The biggest goal of Hull’s impeccable ‘90s run, and perhaps his career, came while he was donning a Dallas Stars’ sweater. In Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, Hull ended a triple-overtime marathon by sneaking a rebounding puck past Sabres’ goaltender Dominik Hasek from inside of the crease. The controversial goal awarded Dallas their first Stanley Cup and Hull fittingly closed out the decade with a goal sparking a manic frenzy among his fan base (and Buffalo’s as well, but for a different reason).
Let’s be clear for a second. Hull was by no means a magician with the puck like Lemieux or Jagr. He didn’t possess the flawless skating ability of a Bure or Selanne nor did he pose a threat to his opponent with a physique built like Lindros and Neely. Hull earned the distinction as the best simply because he was able to score goals by any means necessary. Hull was meant to score goals for his team as Julius Erving was meant to dunk a basketball or Babe Ruth was meant to blast home runs out of the park.