Posted by: Adventures in Pucking | October 10, 2011

Man of the Day 10/9: Bobby Orr

Robert Gordon Orr, OC

Born March 20, 1948 (age 63) in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada

Defenseman for the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, now a hockey agent

To end our Legends Week, we now spotlight a true Bruins legend, Bobby Orr. Bobby was one of five children born to Doug Orr and Arva Steele. Doug was invited to join a hockey team himself but declined the offer and instead joined the Canadian Navy in World War II. Bobby was a sickly child when he was first born, but survived and thrived. He started playing organized hockey at age 5, only a year after getting his first pair of skates, although he was actually a winger until age 10. At that time, his coach suggested he become a d-man but use his skills from playing as a forward to benefit him. As soon as Bruins scouts started noticing him, in 1961, they invested money in sponsoring his team and visiting his family. He was pursued by a few other teams, but picked Boston in 1962 because he liked that they were rebuilding and heading for the future.

Orr started playing for the Oshawa Generals, which had an interesting birth. Boston already had a junior team–Niagara Falls Flyers–but a man named Wren Blair was able to make the case for them having another, the Generals, with Boston owning 51% of the team. He went to the Niagara Falls camp at age 14, but at the end of the camp when it was time to actually sign with the Bruins, a meeting with the Bs owner went south and Orr went back home without his signature on anything. They did eventually get him to commit to joining the team at 18, but under these conditions: he’d stay in Parry Sound to finish school, skip Generals practices and only go to Oshawa to play games. He got a large signing bonus, a new car and got the Bs to foot the bill for new stucco on the Orr family home. Negotiation! However, Orr eventually moved to Oshawa, finished high school there and boarded with a family. He had a great junior career but felt dissatisfied with how the Bruins had treated him while he grew up, so he teamed up with lawyer Alan Eagleson to light a fire under them and get Orr sorted. Eagleson told Boston to pay Orr a very high salary or else he’d go play for Canada’s national team instead. They offered a high salary–not as high as Eagleson’s opening offer–and signing bonus, Orr became an NHL player and Eagleson went on to become the first executive director of the NHLPA, ushering in an era where players’ agents could help them negotiate.

I know that this is a little ahead of the narrative, but this is just such a cool photo.

Orr’s rookie season in Boston was notable–he won the Calder! He got his first goal against the Habs in October 1962 and also won his first fight against a Montreal tough guy, helping prove himself to the team. Sure, the team finished the season last place, but attendance had jumped. Maybe, just maybe, Orr was right about the rebuild. The next season was marred by injuries, though he did get to play in the All-Star Game, and the Bruins made their first playoff run in ten seasons, although they were swept by Montreal but still happy to be there. Orr also developed a rivalry with Pat Quinn on the Maple Leafs that came to a head during a 1969 playoff game. Quinn hit Orr and knocked him unconscious. He got a five-minute penalty, was attacked by a fan while in the sin bin and swung his stick in the fan’s direction, shattering the glass. Once he returned to the ice, fans showered him with garbage. Obviously Boston fans didn’t want people to mess with Bobby Orr. Of course, in the following year, the Bruins won the Cup off of a golden goal scored by Orr that has been immortalized both in a photo of him jumping in victory after scoring and in a statue unveiled last year outside TD Garden. 1971 had the Bruins getting crazy good and shattering loads of records, making them favorites to repeat as champions, though they lost to Montreal. Orr also signed the first million-dollar contract in the NHL and was on the squad when the Bruins won again in 1972. At that time, though, he knew his knee was starting to give out.

Victory is his.

After 1972, the WHA lured away a lot of Boston’s guys, the coach was fired and the team changed ownership twice in the span of only a few years. The Bruins kept making playoff exits and Orr needed some surgeries on his knee, which didn’t respond well to therapy and forced him to end his season early. (Please note that in 2009, he had two knee replacements and is totally pain-free now.) Free agency lingering, the Bruins wanted to offer him a deal that would have him own 18.6% of the team in 1980, and then a different offer requiring him to pass a physical before each season with only one year’s money guaranteed. Chicago offered him five guaranteed years, so he took that. He got to play in an international competition–the 1976 Canada Cup–even though he was in terrible pain, pain that kept him from playing the entire 1977-78 season. After a short comeback, he determined he just couldn’t do it anymore and retired. In total, he scored 270 goals and 645 assists in 657 games along with 953 playoff minutes. The three-year waiting period to join the Hall of Fame was waived for him.

After his career was over, he discovered he was basically bankrupt because his liabilities exceeded his assets. As he started righting his financial ship, he helped expose Eagleson as a fraud who often misled his clients and used official funds for his own enjoyment. Eagleson was convicted on charges of fraud, embezzlement and racketeering. Orr was also involved in a lawsuit against the NHL regarding the handling of pension funds–the players won that one. In 1996, he became an agent, which he still does to this day. He represents guys like the Staal brothers, Jeff Carter, Anthony Stewart and Taylor Hall. He’s also known for being a clean-living, kind-hearted, charitable guy (who doesn’t want a big deal to be made of his charitable work) who helped two guys in the Bruins organization get help when they needed rehab. Part of him not making a big deal about good things he does is because has always been rather quiet and reserved. He used to hide in the trainers’ room to avoid post-game interviews and still hasn’t yet authorized a biography. He got married in a secret ceremony (again with being reserved!) in 1973 and have two sons. He also has two grandchildren. It would take a whole ‘nother post for me to write out all of the awards he received both during and after his career; let’s just say the man is very well-decorated.

Also, his appearance in this music video for the Dropkick Murphys’ Going Out in Style is great. Please note the song has some swearing in it, but it is really cool.

-Emma


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