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Robert Gordon "Bobby" Orr, OC (born March 20, 1948) is a retired ice hockey player. A defenceman, he is considered to be one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He played his National Hockey League (NHL) career with the Boston Bruins, with the exception of two brief seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Orr won two Stanley Cup championships with the Bruins when Boston defeated the St. Louis Blues in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals in four games and the New York Rangers in the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals in six games, scoring the clinching goals in both series, and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP both years. He also led Boston to the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. Winning a record eight Norris Trophies as the league's best defenceman, Orr is often credited for revolutionizing his position. He remains the only defenceman to have won the league scoring title with two Art Ross Trophies and holds the record for most points and assists in a single season by a defenceman.

After his retirement, he became a player agent, a position he holds today.

Biography

Early life

Orr was born in Parry Soundmarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, and displayed his hockey talents from an early age. He started skating and playing shinny at age four. Bobby was discovered by the Boston Bruins at a bantam tournament in Ontario, prompting the club to invest $1,000 to sponsor his team and earn his rights. He was signed by the Bruins at age fourteen and as a sixteen-year-old, played for the Oshawa Generals in the junior league Ontario Hockey Association, competing against eighteen-, nineteen- and twenty-year-olds; National Hockey League rules dictated that he could not join the Boston Bruins before reaching eighteen. In his third season, Orr led the Generals to the OHA championship, winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup, and competing in the Memorial Cup Final in 1966. In his final season with Oshawa, he averaged two points per game. Toronto lawyer Alan Eagleson negotiated Orr's first contract with the Bruins, a $25,000 salary at a time when the typical maximum rookie salary was $8,000. At the time, it made Orr the highest-paid player in league history.

Bruins career

In his first professional season, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's outstanding rookie. Late in the season, however, he missed nine games with a knee injury — presaging such woes through his career — when Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Marcel Pronovost checked him into the boards. While the perennially cellar-dwelling Bruins finished in last place that season, Orr sparked a renaissance that propelled the Bruins to make the playoffs the following twenty-nine straight seasons. New York Rangers defenceman Harry Howell, winner of the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman in Orr's rookie year, predicted that he was glad to win when he did, because "Orr will own this trophy from now on."

An injury to his right knee limited Orr to just 46 games in the 1968 season; he nonetheless won the first of a record eight consecutive Norris trophies.

In 1970, he doubled his scoring total from the previous season, to 120 points, six shy of the league record and becoming the first (and to date, only) defenceman in history to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer. Besides the Norris and Art Ross, Orr captured the first of three consecutive Hart Trophies as regular-season MVP and later won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his playoff performance, becoming the first player in history to win four major NHL awards in one season.

Orr went on to lead the Bruins in a march through the playoffs that culminated on May 10, 1970, when he scored one of the most famous goals in hockey history to give Boston its first Stanley Cup since 1941. The goal came off a give-and-go pass with teammate Derek Sanderson at the 40-second mark of the first overtime period in Game Four, helping to complete a sweep of the St. Louis Blues. The subsequent image of a horizontal Orr flying through the air, his arms raised in victory—as he shot he had been tripped by Blues' defenceman Noel Picard while watching the puck pass by goaltender Glenn Hall—became a prize-winning photograph and is arguably the most famous and recognized hockey image of all time.


The following year, 1971, in a season when the powerhouse Bruins shattered dozens of league offensive records, Orr finished second in league scoring while setting records that still stand for points in a season by a defenceman and for plus/minus (+124) by any position player. Orr's Bruins were heavy favourites to repeat as Cup champions, but were upset by the Montreal Canadiens and their rookie goaltender Ken Dryden.

Orr led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup again in 1972, leading the league in scoring in the playoffs and scoring the championship-winning goal en route to his second Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, making him the first two-time winner of this award.

His knee problems would take an increasing toll after 1973. Despite being limited by knee injuries which would later force him to retire prematurely, he led the Bruins to another first-place finish in the regular season and the Stanley Cup final in 1974, where they lost to Philadelphia Flyers.

In 1976, despite several knee operations that left him playing in severe pain, Orr was named the most valuable player in the Canada Cup international competition.

Free agency, and the move to Chicago

The Bruins offered Orr one of the most lucrative contracts in sports history, including over 18% ownership in the Bruins organization. However, Eagleson, who by this time was doubling as Orr's agent and executive director of the NHLPA, falsely told Orr that the Chicago Black Hawks had a better deal. Conventional wisdom in NHL circles has long held that Eagleson never told Orr about the Bruins' offer of part-ownership. That is belied, however, by Eagleson's public disclosure of the Bruins' ownership offer - for example, the day before Orr signed with Chicago, Eagleson was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying "[Boston] offered a five-year deal at $925,000 or 18.6 percent ownership of the club in 1980." Then on June 9, 1976, after Orr signed with Chicago, Eagleson told the Toronto Globe and Mail that "Orr was to receive $925,000 in cash payable in June 1980. That was to be a cash payment or involve Orr's receiving 18.6 percent of the Bruins stock."
Nonetheless, however, Eagleson had mislead or withheld enough details from Boston's offer so Orr never signed on. Orr's departure from the Bruins was considered acrimonious, and the two have not formally reconciled. Years later, it emerged that Eagleson had very good relations with Black Hawks owner Bill Wirtz and NHL president John Ziegler that colluded to hold back salaries of certain players.


Orr subsequently signed with Chicago, but his injuries rendered him too severely hurt to play effectively, and, after playing in only 26 games over the next three seasons, retired in 1979. Famously, he never cashed a Chicago pay check, stating that he was paid to play hockey and would not accept a salary if he was not playing.

Orr retired having scored 270 goals and 645 assists in 657 games, adding 953 penalty minutes. At the time of his retirement, he was the leading defenceman in league history in goals, assists and points, tenth overall in assists and 19th in points. The only players in league history to have averaged more points per game than Orr are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy.

Style of play

Orr inspired the game of hockey with his command of the two-way game, which was unique for a defenceman. Defencemen with goal-scoring ability were not common in the NHL before his arrival. Orr was unique in that he could score goals as well, and he influenced countless defencemen who followed him. His speed, most notably a rapid acceleration, and his open-ice artistry electrified fans as he set almost every conceivable record for a defenceman. In contrast to the style of hanging back defensive play common in the later 1950s and 1960s, Orr was known for his fluid skating and end-to-end rushing. Orr's rushing enabled him to be where the puck was, allowing him not only to score effectively but also defend when necessary. According to longtime Bruins coach and general manager Harry Sinden, "Bobby became a star in the NHL about the time they played the National Anthem for his first game with us."

Orr also benefited from playing most of his career in Boston Gardenmarker, which was nine feet (2.7 m) shorter and two feet (0.6 m) narrower than the standard NHL rink. This suited his rushing style very well, as he was able to get from one end of the ice to the other faster than in a standard rink.

His style of play was also hard on his knees and shortened his career. "It was the way I played," Orr has said. "I liked to carry the puck and if you do that, you're going to get hit. I wish I'd played longer, but I don't regret it." Orr stated in 2008. "I had a style — when you play, you play all-out. I tried to do things. I didn't want to sit back. I wanted to be involved."

Retirement

By 1978, Orr had undergone over a dozen knee surgeries, was having trouble walking and barely skated any more. He ultimately came to the conclusion that he could no longer play and informed the Blackhawks that he was retiring. The NHL waived the mandatory three-year waiting period for induction into the Hockey Hall of Famemarker and he was enshrined at age 31—the youngest player ever to be inducted, and one of only ten players to get in without having to wait three years. "Losing Bobby", said Gordie Howe, "was the greatest blow the National Hockey League has ever suffered." One of Orr's lasting legacies is that his popularity helped to cement the expansion of the NHL in America. His number 4 jersey was retired by the Bruins in January 1979. At the ceremony, the crowd at Boston Garden would not stop applauding and as a result, most of the evening's program had to be scrapped at the last second owing to the constant cheering.

He has been honoured with his name recorded on Canada's Walk of Famemarker. A museum exists in his honour in his hometown of Parry Sound called the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. In 1979, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Orr later played a role in the exposure of Alan Eagleson's misconduct over the years. He had once considered Eagleson a "big brother", but broke with him after suspecting that Eagleson was not being truthful. Shortly after Orr retired in 1979, an independent accountant revealed that Orr's liabilities exceeded his assets, leaving him essentially bankrupt despite being supposedly one of the highest-paid players in the NHL. In addition to misleading his clients about contract terms, Eagleson used the NHLPA pension fund to enrich himself. Eventually, Eagleson was convicted in American and Canadian courts and sentenced to eighteen months in a Canadian prison, of which he served six months. Orr was one of nineteen former players who threatened to resign from the Hall of Fame if Eagleson was not removed. Facing certain expulsion, Eagleson resigned from the Hall soon after his conviction in 1998.

Subsequent to his playing career, Orr served briefly as an assistant coach for Chicago, and as a consultant to the NHL and the Hartford Whalers, spending the bulk of his retirement years as a Boston-area bank executive. He is currently a player agent in Boston. For a number of years, Orr coached a team of top Canadian Hockey League players against a similar team coached by Don Cherry in the CHL Top Prospects Game.

Cherry, his former coach in Boston, considers Orr the greatest hockey player who ever lived.

Career achievements and facts



Records

  • Most points in one NHL season by a defenceman (139; 1970–71).
  • Most assists in one NHL season by a defenceman (102; 1970–71).
  • Highest plus/minus in one NHL season (+124; 1970–71).
  • Tied for most assists in one NHL game by a defenceman (6; tied with Babe Pratt, Pat Stapleton, Ron Stackhouse, Paul Coffey and Gary Suter).
  • Held record for most assists in one NHL season from 1971 to 1981 (102; broken by Wayne Gretzky and also bettered by Mario Lemieux), this is still a record for a defenceman.
  • Held record for most goals in one NHL season by a defenceman from 1971 to 1986 (37 in 1971, broke own record in 1975 with 46; broken in 1986 by Paul Coffey with 48).


Career statistics

  • Career highs in each statistical category are marked in boldface.
Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM +/- PP SH GW GP G A Pts PIM
1962–63 Oshawa Generals Metro Jr.A 34 6 15 21 45
1963–64 Oshawa Generals OHA 56 29 43 72 142 6 0 7 7 21
1964–65 Oshawa Generals OHA 56 34 59 93 112 6 0 6 6 10
1965–66 Oshawa Generals OHA 47 38 56 94 92 17 9 19 28 14
1966–67 Boston Bruins NHL 61 13 28 41 102 n/a 3 1 0
1967–68 Boston Bruins NHL 46 11 20 31 63 +30 3 0 1 4 0 2 2 2
1968–69 Boston Bruins NHL 67 21 43 64 133 +65 4 0 2 10 1 7 8 10
1969–70 Boston Bruins NHL 76 33 87 120 125 +54 11 4 3 14 9 11 20 14
1970–71 Boston Bruins NHL 78 37 102 139 91 +124 5 3 5 7 5 7 12 10
1971–72 Boston Bruins NHL 76 37 80 117 106 +86 11 4 4 15 5 19 24 19
1972–73 Boston Bruins NHL 63 29 72 101 99 +56 7 1 3 5 1 1 2 7
1973–74 Boston Bruins NHL 74 32 90 122 82 +84 11 0 4 16 4 14 18 28
1974–75 Boston Bruins NHL 80 46 89 135 101 +80 16 2 4 3 1 5 6 2
1975–76 Boston Bruins NHL 10 5 13 18 22 +10 3 1 0
1976–77 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 20 4 19 23 25 +6 2 0 0
1978–79 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 6 2 2 4 4 +2 0 0 0
OHA totals 193 107 173 280 391 29 9 32 41 45
NHL totals 657 270 645 915 953 +597 76 16 26 74 26 66 92 92


International play

  • Was named to Canada's 1972 Summit Series team, but did not play in a game owing to injury.
  • Played for Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup.


International statistics
Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
1972 Canada Summit Series 0 0 0 0 0
1976 Canada Canada Cup 7 2 7 9 8


Player agent

Orr Hockey Group is a Boston based player agent majority-owned by Orr and repurchased in February 2002. The group represents such players as Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Marc Staal, Rick DiPietro, Nathan Horton, Jeff Carter, Steve Downie, Anthony Stewart, Tomáš Kaberle, and Colton Orr (no relation).

Spezza, when asked on the experience of having Orr as an agent, replied: "I don't think I have a true feeling for how great he is. I have so much respect for him. I watch him on tapes and it's just ridiculous how good he was compared to the guys he was playing against. He's a great guy and you don't even know it's Bobby Orr, the way he talks to you."

References

  1. interview


External links




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