Just before last weekend, I rang up the Chief of Police of Gananoque in Ontario, Canada, but he asked if I could call back on the weekend because he was busy chasing, as he called it, “a couple of bad guys”.
The Chief’s name is Garry Hull, and if you’re tying in his name with the onset of another National Hockey League campaign, you are right on the money.
The NHL is underway once again, and major league hockey has been a sport that delivers so much in excitement and thrills all the way to the crowning of another Stanley Cup champion.
Garry Hull, as you might have figured by now, comes from a family rich with hockey legends, although you soon realize that it’s a family more rich with farming and hard work than celebrity.
Hull’s uncle, Bobby, is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
Bobby Hull led the NHL in goals seven times, more than any player in history.
In his 23-year career in the NHL and the World Hockey Association, playing for the Chicago Black Hawks in the NHL, and the Winnipeg Jets and Hartford Whalers in the WHA, Bobby Hull won Most Valuable Player awards, scoring titles and led three of his teams to league championships.
But it was more than sheer numbers. Bobby Hull, with his blonde hair, skating in lightning fashion on rushes down the ice and delivering rocket-like shots on goal, was known as the “Golden Jet”.
He was simply, a thrilling athlete, with an electric style that was unmatched.
His younger brother, Dennis, who played alongside Bobby for eight seasons, scored over 300 goals. Some observers felt Dennis had a harder shot than his brother.
So the two great stars of the National Hockey League were uncles of Garry, who was a mere six years of age when all three were part of the family which hung around his father’s farm in Millbrook, Ontario.
Young Garry thought it was kind of neat that his relatives were pro hockey stars, but basically that’s as far as it went.
For Garry, who has four brothers and seven sisters, their link was their farm. Owned by his father, also named Garry, drawing hay and cutting cattle was the name of the game.
Garry’s Dad, he says, was the person he idolized the most. A hockey coach, and a player, with brief stints in the pro ranks, Garry Sr. was the smartest guy talking hockey.
More than anything, his commitment as a family man, to his wife and his farm was the chief reason Garry, the son, always placed Garry, the father on a pedestal.
As Garry Hull got older, he developed more of a connection with contemporary hockey star out of the Hull clan, Brett.
Brett Hull, Bobby’s third oldest son, was a star in his own right.
Brett wound up with 741 career goals, which remains the fourth-highest total in NHL history. On occasion Garry and a few of his buddies would travel to watch his first cousin play in Dallas and St.Louis.
One of the most amusing moments of recognition of his relatives’ hockey fame came in the early 90’s when Brett had signed a lucrative contract. Already in the field of policing, Garry Hull recalled that his cousin’s new deal meant he was earning a salary of $60,000 every two weeks. That was precisely what Garry was bringing in for the year, as a police sergeant!
The hockey sticks and other mementos Garry received all took a back seat to his greatest thrill.
In the 70’s when a series of international games between the Soviet Union national ice hockey team Czech All-Stars and a team of NHL All-Stars was held his uncle took him in the dressing room to meet the likes of Guy Lafleur, Serge Savard and the great Bobby Orr, among others. That, was a special moment, for sure.
Let’s turn from the hockey story involving the great exploits of the Hull group to the Chief himself.
Not wanting to ride the coattails of his uncles and first cousin, Garry Hull decided his life would be in law enforcement. As referred to earlier, his term is “policing”.
After working out in western Canada for a few years, he got a summer job for the Toronto Harbor Commission. He knew that whatever work he would do, being strapped to a desk in an office was something he wanted to avoid.
He became a police constable in Port Hope pop. 13,000. Port Hope is in Southern Ontario, 109 kilometers east of Toronto and about 159 kilometers west of Kingston.
He got to know the people of Port Hope, the families, their working lives and in essence the kind of lifestyle he grew up with in a farming family.
Hull retired as the deputy chief of the town’s police services after a 28-year career.
But Garry Hull wasn’t done yet.
In April of 2013, he relocated to Gananoque and signed on as the top cop after the previous chief resigned.
His contract runs till the end of December, 2020. Then, he will retire for a second time. This time, for good, and let the younger blood try their hand.
I met Garry Hull at Grenadier Island Country Club’s annual Member-Guest golf tournament. He was the partner of one of the club’s good guys, Steve Anderson. It was a delightful day and Steve certainly brought a delightful golfing partner. When Garry talks of people pulling together for a common cause, I see it. Because I’ve met the man.
As for his post-retirement life, Garry can see himself guiding a fishing boat on the St. Lawrence River in the midst of the Thousand Islands.
That’s heaven for him. As he says, “then they can burn me up in the pine box or dig a hole and throw me in the ground”.
Whatever his wife Cheryl, the love of his life decides, is good enough for him.
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