March 25, 2008

#4 Bobby Orr Turns 60

As a young boy growing up in Toronto, I fell in love with the game of hockey. Watching the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux ply their trade was something I'll never forget. Those two players are, and always will be, synonymous with hockey greatness, along with one more: Bobby Orr.

Number four. The man whom Don Cherry says is the greatest hockey player to ever lace up a pair of skates. Of course, I never got to see Orr play. He was before my time. But many didn't get the chance either, as wonky knees robbed Orr of his prime years, and forced him into retirement at the unbelievably young age of 31.

Bobby Orr, the kid from Parry Sound,
turned 60 last week. For those that were lucky enough to watch him play, it seems like only yesterday that he did. Last night on TV Ontario's The Agenda With Steve Paikin Globe and Mail sports columnist Stephen Brunt, whose work I thoroughly enjoy both at The Globe and on McCowan's Prime Time Sports, sat down with Steve Paikin to talk about the great Bobby Orr, the man and the myth.

As a self-proclaimed hockey nut, and a religious watcher of Hockey Night In Canada, I've always had a good idea of who Bobby Orr is and what he did for the game of hockey. In all honesty though, I never knew how good he really was on the ice. His statistics blew me away.

In only 657 career NHL games, Orr racked up an incredible 915 points (270 goals, 645 assists). Don't forget, Orr was a defenceman. He revolutionized the position, and is one of the few who changed the game as we know it. Orr also contributed when it mattered most, registering 92 points in 74 career playoff games, and winning two Stanley Cups.

Orr's records speak for themselves. He was the first defenceman to score 20 goals in a season, and the first player, at any position, to ever win three straight MVP awards.

When New York Rangers defenceman Brian Leetch tallied 102 points in the 1991/1992 NHL season, I remember being blown away by his scoring prowess from the defence position. Well, Leetch's 102 points had nothing on Orr. From 1969 to 1975, Orr had seasons of 120, 139, 117, 101, 122, and 135 points respectively. Simply phenomenal numbers.

Unfortunately, after his 135-point 1974/1975 season, Orr's injured knees limited him to only 36 games over the next three years. In 1979 Orr, hockey's brightest star, was forced to walk away from the sport in his prime.

Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself, has called Orr's premature retirement "the greatest blow the National Hockey League has ever suffered."

Orr was definitely one of the best hockey players to ever play the game, and I hope you'll click
here to watch the interview with Stephen Brunt, author of "Searching For Bobby Orr," or download the podcast, to learn more about #4's life, and what he means to Canadian culture.

And before I forget, happy belated birthday
Bobby Orr.