The Loophole That Almost Allowed Bobby Hull To Play

A well documented aspect of Team Canada 1972 was the fact that Bobby Hull - quite possibly Canada's best player with defenseman Bobby Orr out with injury problems - was not allowed to play.

A few weeks prior to the selection of Team Canada 1972, Hull shocked the hockey world when he left the National Hockey League to accept a ghastly million dollar contract from the Winnipeg Jets of the new major league rival World Hockey Association. By doing so he made himself ineligible for inclusion in the Summit Series as it was agreed that Team Canada would be made up strictly of players under NHL contracts.

Unlike other WHA-jumpers like Derek Sanderson, Gerry Cheevers, and J. C. Tremblay, Hull had a loophole that almost allowed him to play anyways. Technically, his contract with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks did not expire until November 1972.

Armed with that in mind, Team Canada secretly plotted to have Hull included on the team. According to Alan Eagleson's book Power Play, Hull was one of the players who was going to be named during a press conference. By keeping his inclusion a safely guarded secret, it was hoped that public's overwhelming reaction to his naming to the team would eliminate NHL attempts to keep the WHA-jumper off the team. 

However something went wrong. Eagleson claims Hull himself let the secret out of the bag to a reporter as Team Canada's plans became known prior to any press conference.  Rumours of Hull's inclusion angered the NHL and before Team Canada could make Hull's inclusion official, the NHL laid down an ultimatum.

The NHL basically told Team Canada that they can indeed use any player they want - NHL, WHA or otherwise. But in the event of injury they would not honor the guaranteed contracts.

That was a damning blow to Team Canada's efforts to include Hull. Many NHL players likely would have left the team without guaranteed contracts, so Team Canada was left with two choices - gather the funding to get their own insurance to cover the players, or leave Hull off the team.

With very little time to gather funding and insurance, Team Canada was essentially left with no choice. The NHL got their wish - Bobby Hull was left off the team much to the chagrin of angry Canadian fans including Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Eagleson went on to say:

"If Bobby Hull had not made that comment in advance and we had been able to list his name with the rest of the team at the press conference, there is no way on earth anybody could have kicked him off. The public reaction was furious enough as it was. Even the Prime Minister got involved on Hull's side. The furore was nothing to what it would have been if he had been named first and then the NHL had used the contract guarantee ploy out of plain self-interest."

He also added: "On the same grounds that Prime Minister Trudeau used patriotism and motherhood in vain, that Canadians were Canadians and any Team Canada would not be our best without Hull, I simply would not have allowed him to be left off the team."

Again, this all from Alan Eagleson's autobiography, so you can decide for yourself if that is a trustworthy enough source for this story. Bobby Hull would probably dispute Eagleson's claim that it was all Hull's fault because of a leak to the media.