The celebration of Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews’ 60-goal season as the first by an American-born player is both accurate and appropriate.
But it is also confusing.
Brett Hull is a proud American and scored 70 or more goals in the NHL in three different seasons. His best season was 1990-91 when he netted 86 goals for the St. Louis Blues. Here’s the issue: Hull, son of NHL great Bobby Hull, was born in Belleville, Ontario. His mother is American. He grew up playing hockey in Canada. Brett Hull came to America to play college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth and he still lives here today. He started playing for U.S. National teams in 1986. He’s in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hull, who helped the Red Wings win a Stanley Cup in 2002, still holds the record for most goals in a season by an American player. But Matthews, born and raised in Arizona, holds the record for most goals by an American-born player. There’s a difference.
Here is every NHL season where an American has reached both 50 goals and 100 points:
1988 Jimmy Carson
1989 Joe Mullen
1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993 Brett Hull
1990 and 1993 Pat LaFontaine
1992 and 1993 Kevin Stevens
1992 and 1993 Jeremy Roenick
2022 Auston Matthews
— Jake Baskin (@jakebaskinpxp) April 22, 2022
It’s a distinction not a controversy. USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said the organization happily celebrates both players.
“We embrace Brett,” Fischer said. “We love him. He’s an American through and through.”
Celebrating the Grassroots
But Fischer said Matthews’ season offers a different level of accomplishment. “Auston is the first American-born player who grew up playing in the U.S. and we can celebrate the grassroot contributions (to his development),” Fischer said.
The fact that Matthews grew up in Arizona, which is a non-traditional market, provides another reason for USA Hockey to trumpet his success. In recent years, the NHL has been mining hockey talent out of several states that were not considered hockey areas 25 years ago. Matthews’ success speaks to that growth.
But USA Hockey hasn’t forgotten about Brett Hull. Fischer said Hull has told USA Hockey he is always willing to do what he can to help the program. Hull played three seasons for the Detroit Red Wings from 2001-04.