CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks will welcome back long-estranged Hall of Famers Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to the organization Friday night.
The former stars have not been close to the team for decades. Senior vice president Bob Pulford's move to an executive position within the Wirtz Corporation after the death of team owner Bill Wirtz opened the way for their return.
It started when Rocky Wirtz, Bill Wirtz's son, took over the team, Hull said.
"Rocky got rid of some of the deadwood," Hull said. "I wasn't close to a franchise I grew up with. It was because of the hardheadedness of the people running the team before Rocky Wirtz took over. It's nice to be wanted."
Hull and Mikita became team ambassadors on Dec. 19 and will be honored in a ceremony Friday before the Blackhawks play San Jose. Former goalie Tony Esposito has since been added to a similar post.
Hull, who had a team-record 604 goals in 15 seasons with Chicago, left the Blackhawks in 1972 for the new World Hockey Association. He played for the Winnipeg Jets for seven seasons, then was claimed by the Blackhawks in the wake of the NHL's absorbing four WHA teams, including the Jets, in the summer of 1979. But Pulford, then the Hawks' general manager, didn't protect Hull, and the Jets quickly reclaimed him.
Hull also resented that the Hawks failed to acquire son Brett Hull on several occasions, including when he was a free agent.
"I don't think Mr. Pulford likes me, and I don't think he wanted Brett Hull because he knew I'd be around a little too much," Hull said.
Mikita's absence from most formal activities since his retirement in 1980 came despite living in the Chicago area.
"You don't have to hit me over the head with a sledgehammer to tell me I'm not wanted," said Mikita, who had a team-record 1,467 points in 22 seasons. "Therefore, I stayed out of the way. We left because they didn't want us.