Orr: My Story by Bobby Orr
By Stuart Nulman
Orr: My Story by Bobby Orr (Viking Canada, $32)
The Boston Bruins’ immortal Number Four, Bobby Orr has had an incredible Hall of Fame career; he led the Big Bad Bruins to two Stanley Cup championships during the early 70s, won eight James Norris trophies, was selected to the NHL First All Star Team eight times and was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1970.
Yet, one of the greatest defensemen ever to grace the NHL will tell you these days that his 14 years as a pro hockey player is not just about him, it’s more about the game of hockey, what it represents and his endless passion for it. And it’s exactly that tone that is prevalent in his recently-published memoir “Orr: My Story”.
As far as Orr is concerned, he was just a humble young man from Parry Sound, Ontario who was instilled with a love of hockey at a young age, and had the extraordinary skills – and luck – to accomplish something difficult, which was prove himself as a skilled player at a young age and, at the tender age of 14, get signed to the Bruins’ farm club the Oshawa Generals and then make it to the NHL in just four short years. What made this prelude to hockey superstardom so interesting, yet unusual, were the terms that he signed his contract with the Generals, which was engineered by then-GM Wren Blair in 1962: $1,000, plus $12 a week, as well as the Generals organization pay to have the Orr house stuccoed and his dad receive a used car, according to the terms of the contract, “up to a 1956 model, of the father’s choice.”
But Orr is not just content to tell his story and trumpet his accomplishments with the Generals and the Bruins; he shares the credit with his family, his Bruins teammates (especially bad boy Derek “Turk” Sanderson), former coach Don Cherry (one of the few instances where I see high praised heaped upon “Grapes”), and the future generations of hockey players he enjoys mentoring on a regular basis.
However, Orr saves his strongest, critical words for Alan Eagleson, the Toronto lawyer who signed Orr to represent him as his agent just as he began his NHL career, and became the catalyst for the NHL Players’ Association. Yet his greed and embezzlement of money that belonged to Orr and the other NHL players he represented ended up with a prison term, as well as having his Hall of Fame membership and Order of Canada revoked. And through all of this, Orr still feels a sense of personal responsibility for Eagleson’s criminal actions.
Orr writes that “I don’t bring any of this up looking for sympathy. I don’t want to present myself as a victim, because ultimately only I was responsible for myself and my finances. I handed off a lot of responsibility to Alan Eagleson, but it was still mine. That lapse in judgment, the total faith I put in him, is all on me … To this day, though, I can’t help but wonder how he rationalizes many of his actions. It’s difficult to imagine how, or whether, he has taken account of the hurt he caused so many people. I just don’t understand how he can sleep at night … He probably couldn’t care less.”
Orr spends the last third of the book giving his take on the state of hockey today, and gives a rational, intelligent look at how the game can be improved today, especially when it comes to fighting, officiating, salaries and safety. He also gives his take on some of the highlights of his short, yet unforgettable hockey career, from his two Stanley Cups, the eight Norris Trophies, being an NHL all star, playing for Team Canada during the 1976 Canada Cup, and the statue that immortalized his airborne celebration after scoring the winning goal during the 1970 finals, which he says in his ever so modest way “It’s very humbling”.
“Orr: My Story” is not your typical self-serving, self-confessional memoir. It’s a genuine story of a person of modest means who managed to take his passion for hockey and transcend it into a legendary professional career. Bobby Orr certainly defines what a reluctant superstar is all about. Imagine what he could have accomplished even further if his knees didn’t give out so soon.
Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at email@example.com.