Brett Hull retires after five games of 19th season

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brett Hull choked back emotion and
thanked "everyone who ever touched my life in the game,"
announcing his retirement on Saturday from a career that left him
the third-leading goal scorer in NHL history.

"I wish no one had to do this because it's so hard, it's hard
because you never think you're going to grow older and be unable to
live up to the expectations you set for yourself," he said.

The 41-year-old Hull, who had one assist in five games for the
Phoenix Coyotes in his 19th NHL season, had to stop to gain control
of his emotions, with his three children, fiancée and several former
teammates looking on.

"There's an old expression, and I don't know who said it -- 'The
mind is willing but the body isn't,'" Hull said.

Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky is one of his best friends, yet Hull
found his minutes on the ice diminishing.

"I realized I wasn't who I thought I was," Hull said. "I
wasn't Brett Hull at 30 or 35 even. I was 41 years old and after a
year and a half layoff, I didn't have what it took to play in the
new game that was so exciting."

Hull's announcement came two hours before the Coyotes faced his
former team, the Detroit Red Wings.

"The National Hockey League will miss Brett's skill, his
scoring touch and his fun-loving attitude," NHL commissioner Gary
Bettman said. "He was a splendid athlete, a passionate player and
someone who never hesitated to speak his mind. His achievements
further cement the Hull family legacy of hockey greatness."

Hull signed with the Coyotes on Aug. 6, 2004, lured by Gretzky,
who was leaning toward becoming the team's coach. There was no
2004-05 season, though, because of the NHL lockout. When Hull
joined the team, he found it hard to keep up with the younger

Only Gretzky and Gordie Howe have more goals than Hull in NHL

"I was probably more emotional today about him retiring than I
was the day I retired," Gretzky said. "It's a new beginning for
him and his family. I told him today he's going to look forward
with a lot of great times with his kids and his fiancée. His records
speak for themselves. He's a consumate professional. My dad told me
today that I ran [an] 800-goal scorer out of hockey."

Before the Coyotes' home opener a week ago, Hull's father, Hall-of-Famer Bobby Hull, had his number "un-retired" so his son Brett
could wear it this season. The Hulls are the only father-son
players to each top 600 goals.

Hull had 741 goals and 650 assists in the former
Minnesota-Duluth star's long NHL career with Calgary, St. Louis,
Dallas, Detroit and Phoenix. He joined the league with Calgary in
the 1986 Stanley Cup finals. He is second on the NHL career list
for power-play goals (265) and third in game-winning goals (110).

"I don't think I've seen a better player shoot the one-timer,"
said New York Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr, whose 541 goals since
the 1990-91 season are second only to Hull's 595. "It was a

Hull won Stanley Cup titles in 1999 with Dallas and 2002 with
Detroit. In 1999, he scored a controversial goal in the third
overtime to give the Stars a 2-1 victory over Buffalo in the
series-ending sixth game.

"I made so many friends, had so many good times," he said.

Hull played in nine All-Star games and was the league MVP in
1991. Hull played for the United States in the 1998 and 2002
Olympics, as well as in three World Cups. He was part of the gold
medal World Cup team in 1996.

Brendan Shanahan, who played with Hull in St. Louis and Detroit,
called him "a guy who spoke his mind, a colorful guy."

"A lot of the changes that are being made in the NHL, he should
get a lot of credit for," Shanahan said. "He's been talking about
these things for the last 10 years."

Hull said he wanted to stay in the game, perhaps in management,
but never as a coach.

"I don't care what anyone says," he said, "it's the best
sport there is."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.