"What I didn't foresee--what maybe no young man can foresee--was the way those injuries would accumulate and chip away at me. Throughout my career, I had assumed I was indestructible. I was only twenty-eight. I certainly did not think of myself as old. Even with all of the surgeries as the years went by, I felt I could simply put in the rehab work once the doctors were finished fixing me up, and I would go on playing. It wasn't easy to accept that I was wrong." -- page 183
It wasn't always this way for Number Four. When Robert Gordon "Bobby" Orr signed his first professional contract with the Boston Bruins in 1966 at the tender age of 18 he would become the highest paid rookie in the history of the NHL...and for good reason. Up until that time no one thought that a defenseman could actually control the puck and skate with it instead of just clearing it out of the zone. Over the next few years Bobby Orr would revolutionize the game of hockey. Here was a gifted young athlete with exceptional skating ability, extraordinary instincts and amazing poise and maturity to boot. He was the total package. Over the years Bobby Orr turned back all kinds of offers to tell his story. Being a man of great modesty he didn't think anyone would be interested. In 2010 Bobby finally acquiesced and began work on his autobiography. "Orr: My Story" turns out to be a surprisingly revealing and highly entertaining book. Bobby bares his soul about the ups and downs of being a professional athlete, the injuries that would ultimately cut short his career and many of the most important relationships in his life. To my way of thinking Bobby Orr is a class act and has a number of very important things to say in this book.
If you take nothing else away from "Orr: My Story" it is his genuine love of the game he so excelled at. In the opening chapter of the book Bobby recalls "In the winter months, we could generally be found out on the bay playing hockey, but we would play anywhere we could find some open space. It didn't matter if we ended up on the bay, in a parking lot, on the river, or at the Victory school rink. As long as we could play we were happy." It was at all of these venues in his hometown of Parry Sound, ON that the future Hall of Famer would hone his skills. The Orr's were a family of modest means. Just about everyone agrees that his parents Doug and Arva instilled the right values in their son. He never allowed his incredible success get to his head nor did he ever seek special treatment. It was a joy to read about his experiences as a very young player in the "minors" and about his four years with the Oshawa Generals in the Metro Junior A League. I learned an awful lot about the sacrifices that must be made for a young man to become a professional hockey player.
As you might expect, Bobby Orr devotes quite a bit of time to his 10 years as a member of the Boston Bruins. Bobby would set all kinds of records and win numerous awards as a player and you will read all about that in this book. But what Bobby cherishes most are the two Stanley Cup championships and the relationships with his teammates, some of which have lasted a lifetime. Growing up in New England I remember a good many of those names and Bobby's recollections brought back a flood of memories for me. There is also an entire chapter devoted to Don Cherry whom Bobby characterizes as "one of my best friends in the world." Orr offers a passionate case for this friend being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Then there is the fractured relationship with his former agent Alan Eagleson. I had forgotten much of this sordid tale. Although it was very painful for him Bobby Orr pulls no punches in excoriating the man who betrayed not only him but a number of other NHL players he represented. In the final chapters of the book, Bobby Orr talks about what he is doing these days and about the state of today's NHL. Orr questions the conservative style of play in today's NHL. He wonders aloud if any of the coaches in the league would allow him to play the style of play he was so comfortable with during his career.
At the end of the day I was pleasantly surprised at just how well written "Orr: My Story" turned out to be. Not bad for a first time effort! Bobby Orr is a class act with something very important to say. These days Bobby spends much of his time with his Orr Hockey Group not only looking to represent good young hockey players but more importantly looking for kids with good character. He and his associates seek to instill the right values in these kids, just as his parents did with him. My respect and admiration for this man has increased exponentially. If you are a parent of grandparent of an aspiring young athlete then I would urge you to grab a copy of "Orr: My Story". I think you will find that Bobby Orr has something monumentally important to say to your young person. I would especially direct your attention to a letter entitled "So You Want to be a Professional Hockey Player...?" that he sends to all of his young clients. In a society where traditional values seem to be under relentless attack it is refreshing to read about a superstar who clearly his head screwed on straight. Very highly recommended!