The last couple of weeks haven’t been a lot of fun as I have struggled with my health and what started out as just an irritating cough has now developed into a bad case of bronchitis.
I have managed to continue to work at all of my various jobs, but I have also been forced to sit on the sidelines for a number of days. That hasn’t been enjoyable, but one thing the time on the couch did provide me was an opportunity to do some reading.
Last weekend while we celebrated my father’s 75th birthday I noticed that my idol Bobby Orr was going to be a guest of Peter Mansbridge’s on the CBC’s The National.
So, I wrapped myself in a blanket and watched the interview and discovered that Bobby Orr was finally writing a book (Orr-My Story) about his life and that it was going to be released this week.
The next day I went down and bought the book and although I haven’t read the whole thing, it has been an enjoyable experience down memory lane.
There will never be another Bobby Orr, but it was nice to see that I had the same experiences growing up as the legendary defenseman did in Parry Sound, Ont.
Orr talks at great length about his passion for the game as a youngster and that he and his buddies played the game whenever they had a chance. It wasn’t just reserved for time on the ice, but on the street, in a parking lot or in a park.
My group of friends did the same thing.
We used to meet at the East Hill Community Club right after school and play until the lights went out and on weekends we would be there bright and early and stay the entire day. There were times when my parents had to come and collect me to come home and eat, but I would be right back at the rink after a quick bowl of soup or a sandwich.
In the summer we would play grass hockey either at Bryant Park (now called Kinsmen Park) or at King George School. In fact we were playing grass hockey at King George the day that Bobby Orr scored his famous goal to win the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins on May 10, 1970. It’s easy to remember that day as it was my friend Randy Ethier’s birthday and his mom had shouted out to us from across the street that the game was going into overtime so we all rushed in to witness the historical moment.
Bobby Orr also talks extensively in his book about how his parents and friends shaped his character and I again have to agree with that. I often say that the friends I have made me who I am and that my parents allowed me to discover myself on my own rather than pushing me in any one direction.
I, of course, didn’t have the skills that Bobby Orr did, but I did have the same passion for the game and through those activities developed friendships and character traits that have lasted a lifetime.
After Orr talks at great length about his upbringing he does reveal some interesting facts that I had not known before. When he was 12 years old the Montreal Canadiens, specifically a scout by the name of Scotty Bowman, had come to watch him, but decided he was too young to sign to a player list. Back then there was no entry draft so elite players were listed by one of the six NHL teams and would remain the club’s property until they decided there was no future for the player in their system.
Orr’s head coach in pee wee also wrote a letter to the Toronto Maple Leafs when he was 12 years old and they too felt it wasn’t worth their time to be looking at someone so young. That, of course, opened the door for the Bruins who wasted little time in getting Orr on their list and when he was 14 years old he started playing major junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals.
I haven’t gotten to the part where he berates his former agent Allan Eagleson, but from listening to his interview on television he does admit to being mislead and has a genuine dislike for the man. Prior to signing with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1976 for a huge sum of money, Eagleson neglected to tell Orr that he was being offered part ownership of the Bruins to stay in Boston. Had he known that he would have stayed with the Bruins and rather than be financially ruined when he retired two years later be set for life as the Bruins’ franchise is one of the wealthiest in the league.
My only complaint about the book is that Orr deflects credit far too much. His skills were pure and he changed the way the game was played yet he doesn’t see it that way. He does bring up an interesting tidbit when he says his success created a wedge between him and his siblings and that surprised me. But, he says his father spent so much time taking him to games that it took away time from his two brothers and two sisters that they felt cheated of a closeness with their father. I often wondered if Wayne Gretzky’s family went through the same ordeal.
All in all it’s a nice read, but most of all it made me reflect on how my upbringing was similar to his. There was nothing extravagant about it, but just nice and comfortable as I had the best friends in the world who wanted to play the game we all loved. That truly was the best, and simplest, time of my life.
Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.