THE ELATION that many hockey fans felt upon hearing that Brett Hull would not return as a studio analyst on NBC broadcasts this winter gave way last week to surprise and curiosity at the announcement of Hull's newest gig: interim co--general manager of the Dallas Stars. The dual modifiers are unique (there have never been co-G.M.'s in the NHL, and bringing in an "interim" fix with 65 games left in a season may be unprecedented), but it's the noun that gets you. Hull—whose locker room tendency toward pot-stirring, often insightful pronouncements on the NHL never translated during a season of awkward pauses and mindless jawing on the NBC set—scored 741 goals over a 19-year career that ended in 2005. His front office experience, however, amounts to little more than nil.
"Brett has great ideas," says Stars owner Tom Hicks, pointing out that Hull, the son of Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, "has been talking hockey at the breakfast table since he was three or four years old."
To mitigate Hull's administrative inexperience, Hicks has paired him with Les Jackson, who has been in NHL management and scouting for 22 years, most recently as an assistant to the just-deposed Dallas G.M. Doug Armstrong. Jackson will be the front man in handling trades and salary cap issues. Hull, who played for the Stars from 1998--99 (when they won the Stanley Cup) through '00--01, is to get chatty and personal with players (and media). The hope is that he will invigorate them and fans, whose support in terms of ticket sales has slackened by more than 10% since last season.
The Stars are a hodgepodge of a team that after a long string of less than fruitful drafts, lacks a nucleus to succeed the aging leadership trio of forwards Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen and defenseman Sergei Zubov. Still, Hicks, who says he'll "break any ties" should Hull and Jackson be at loggerheads over decisions about the club, believes the team can make a run at the Cup. (Through Sunday, Dallas was 8-7-4, 10th in the West.) And though many in the hidebound NHL are aghast at Hull's swift rise to the executive ranks, Hicks's experiment has merit. Jackson is a respected hockey man, and Hull might breathe some life into a stale organization—now that he's a real opinion-maker and not just a guy playing one on TV.
Defeat Don't Fail Me Now Sports' Biggest Losers
LAST FRIDAY'S game between the Kings and the Knicks was, believe it or not, a historic event: It was a matchup of the NBA's two losingest players: Jamal Crawford (right) and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. In his 12-season career Abdur-Rahim has suffered defeat upon humiliating defeat for four teams. But his numbers are not quite as bad as those of Crawford, who left the Bulls in 2004 (just as they were getting good) to join the Knicks. Here are the active players in each sport with the worst winning percentage in games in which they've appeared.
ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (ABDUR-RAHIM)