When a young Peoria goaltender faced NHL legend Bobby Hull nearly 60 years ago

Legendary professional hockey player Bobby Hull died on Monday at age 84, the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL Alumni Association announced Monday.

In 2015 and in 2019, Hull visited Carver Arena in Peoria as a special guest of the Peoria Rivermen — but it wasn't the hockey legend's first visit to central Illinois.

Peoria native John Seiz will never forget the night 60 years ago he stood in net and faced Hull while the longtime NHLer was in the midst of his spectacular NHL career.

"I was a goaltender, about 20 years old, for the (semi-pro) Pekin Stars, and Bobby Hull showed up at our game in the old Pekin Memorial rink, put his skates on, and took shots at me," Seiz told the Journal Star in 2015 at age 72. Seiz died in 2021.

"Those pucks were coming in 100 mph, and some of them I saw, some of them, well, I didn't," said Seiz, who with his wife, Judy, owned Carriage Shed Restoration, a specialized furniture operation in Peoria. "But the ones that hit me, I could feel through the pads. He was unbelievable."

Bobby Hull holds up the puck with which he scored his 50th goal of the season to tie the NHL record on the final day of the 1961-62 season.
Bobby Hull holds up the puck with which he scored his 50th goal of the season to tie the NHL record on the final day of the 1961-62 season.

John Seiz was among a handful of devoted hockey players — like Mark Olsen and the late Pete BardezBanian — who brought the game to central Illinois in the late 1950s and early 1960s and put together teams that barnstormed around the region.

Seiz played for the Pekin Stars after graduating from Richwoods and, at age 20, found himself on the ice staring back at Hull one night in 1963.

Hull, of course, was in the midst of a 13-year run with the Chicago Blackhawks, and had eight more seasons in the WHA with Winnipeg. By the time the Hockey Hall of Fame great was finished, he'd played 1,063 NHL games and notched 610 goals with 560 assists. He was a 10-time NHL first-team All-Star, six times won the league goalscoring title and twice was named MVP.

Seiz said Hull was down in central Illinois probably buying cattle from someone and happened to stop by Pekin while closing a deal one weekend. Seiz thinks Bobby Hull Jr. was with him, as well.

"He skated out during an intermission and started taking shots at me," Seiz said. "Goaltenders didn't wear masks in those days, either."

Seiz and his teammates played for "nothing" back in those days, he said. The team even had a doctor who would sew up players right on the bench if they got cut.

"We were crazy," Seiz said, "but the night Bobby Hull showed up, that was a night I'll never forget."

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Peoria goaltender faces NHL legend Bobby Hull in 1963