Bobby Orr turns 65 | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaBobby Orr turns 65

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 06:00 AM

Back to accessibility links
Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr, who celebrates his 65th birthday on Wednesday, took to the ice for an oldtimers game before the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. (Elsa/Getty Images) Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr, who celebrates his 65th birthday on Wednesday, took to the ice for an oldtimers game before the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Beginning of Story Content

The legendary Bobby Orr turned 65 on Wednesday. No. 4 was kind enough to take some time to reflect on hitting the milestone birthday.

The voice on the other end of the line sounds downright buoyant.

Was this the same reticent Bobby Orr I've known all these years? Sure, in previous conversations I've watched and listened to No. 4 talk passionately about the state of the game, how hockey parents need to take a chill pill and let their kids find their way, and I've seen him animated when the discussion turned to his rotten former agent Alan Eagleson.

But Orr knew why I had been trying to reach him the past two days. He knew all I wanted to discuss with him was how he felt about turning 65 on Wednesday.

I knew it would be difficult to get him to come to the phone. He never craves attention. I started to send him e-mails and voicemails on Monday afternoon. I tried to reach him 10 times on Tuesday. All of sudden, as I walked home shortly before 7 p.m. ET, my mobile vibrated.

"Timmy, we have to be quick on this. I have some friends waiting to go to dinner. I don't want to keep them waiting," he said.

Turns out Orr was in Augusta, Ga., where the 2013 Masters golf tournament will be played in three weeks. He was less than an hour removed from sauntering off the 18th green at Augusta National.

"What a place," Orr said. "It's beautiful. We played the par-3 course first and then the [main] course itself. Tomorrow, we'll play with another 18."

If you love golf, like Orr, can you think of a better way to celebrate a 65th birthday?

"It's right up there," he said.

When Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield retired 13 months ago, minority Red Sox owner Phillip Morse promised his favourite pitcher that he would organize a couple of rounds at Augusta National as a going-away present. Wakefield could not think of a better person to invite along for the ride than No. 4, Robert Gordon Orr.

"I feel fine," Orr said, when asked how he felt about turning 65.

"But how are you supposed to feel when you're 65? This is my first time," he said with a chuckle. "Life is good. I really like spending time with my two [young] grandchildren."

Download Flash Player to view this content.

"Why did Larry Bird, during the national anthems before Celtics games, look up at the Boston Garden Ceiling? No one knew until a night in 1988 when Larry Bird explained to an audience that included Bobby Orr that what he was doing was looking at Orr's retired number 4."

-Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan

Fifteen years ago, five weeks before he turned 50, Orr was in Toronto for the CHL top prospects game. He was kind enough to allow me to tag along for the day for a "Bobby Orr turns 50" story when I worked for the Toronto Sun. I still remember him asking me to meet him at 4:30 a.m. for breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel in Yorkville. He saw the distress in my face at the early meeting time and gave me a break. "OK, how about 6 a.m.?" he said.

Ten years later, when he turned 60, after many phone messages left, he finally returned my call when he returned to his winter home after a round of golf. Back then he was a year or two removed from having his knees replaced and he felt so good. He could walk 18 holes pain-free. He could go for a skate pain-free. It made for another nice story when I was with the Globe and Mail.

"The greatest hockey player who ever lived: Bobby Orr, and I love him."

-Bruins coach Don Cherry

Orr has spent most of his time in the last few months completing his memoirs with his friend and former London Knights forward Dr. Vern Stenlund, an associate professor at the University of Windsor.

Stenlund, 56, and Orr worked together in developing Chevrolet's Safe and Fun hockey program. Stenlund has written several hockey books for coaches. The Orr book is due to be released in mid-October.

"I felt it was time to write this book," Orr said on Tuesday. "I felt I was finally ready. It's not so much an autobiography, but my thoughts on what happened."

Will this book address his thoughts on Eagleson?

"Part of it will," Orr said. "I didn't want to, but I was told that I should talk about that [episode]."

Orr spent most of this hockey season down at his winter home in Jupiter, Fla. He plays golf almost daily. He frequently makes the trip to nearby Sunrise, Fla. to take in a Florida Panthers game and meet with some of his players from his firm, the Orr Hockey Group, of which he is still president but allows day-to-day operations to be run by his partners and certified agents Rick Curran and Paul Krepelka.

Some of the agency's clients include Eric, Jordan and Marc Staal, Jason Spezza, Cam Ward, Tomas Plekanec, Nathan Horton, Jeff Carter, Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis.

"Bobby Orr was a star when they played the national anthem in his first game."

-Bruins general manager Harry Sinden

Orr also occasionally meets up with former Boston Bruins general manager Harry Sinden for a hunting trip, a round of golf or dinner to discuss the game.

"It's not so much reminiscing, it's more critiquing hockey in general from the old the days to the new days and the days in between," Sinden said. "We usually have a pretty good conversation about the game.

"Most of us who have been around, say, before the last 15 years, we were used to a more puck-possession type of game than you see today. When I got older, and Bobby is the same way, I promised myself I would never say the game was better in our day. It's just different.

"The finesse part of the game, though, that was around for so long when Bobby was involved, then Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, who maintained control of the puck for so long. That player is a rare bird today. The players are much bigger. The game is faster because they don't carry the puck as much. You're always faster when you don't have the puck."

Orr always seemed to have the puck in his day. But the hockey gods cut his career shot. His left knee troubles began in his rookie season when Marcel Pronovost nailed Orr hard into the boards in a game in Dec. 1966.

"Bobby Orr was better on one leg than anybody else was on two [in 1the 976 Canada Cup]."

-Team Canada teammate Darryl Sittler

Orr once told me he underwent "13, 14" knee surgeries. After the 1976 Canada Cup, he knew his playing days were about to end. Still, even though he played his final NHL game more than 34 years ago, in November 1978, he doesn't look much different today. 

"It's hard to believe he's 65," said former Bruins executive Nate Greenberg, who has been a close friend of Orr's for 40 years. "I often told him that he's aged awfully well. I'm a year younger than him almost to the day and I wish I looked as good as he does. I wish I looked half as good.

"I could tell you, without getting into details, that he still does as much today as he did when he played, helping out charities and friends in need. He's a wonderful human being."

"I'd give him my knees if it would help him play again."

-Bruins teammate Don Awrey

No. 4 Facts

Born: March 20, 1948.

Hometown: Parry Sound, Ont.

Junior team: Oshawa Generals (1962-66).

NHL teams: Boston Bruins (1966-1976), Chicago Blackhawks (1976-79).

Career notes: Won 1966-67 Calder Trophy ... Won eight Norris Trophies (1968-1975) ... Won three Hart Trophies, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1971-72 ... Won two Art Ross Trophies (1969-70, 1974-75) ... Two-time Stanley Cup champion with 1969-70 and 1971-72 Bruins ... Won Conn Smythe Trophy in 1969-70 and 1971-72 ... In 1969-70, he became only player to win Hart, Norris, Art Ross, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in same season ... Won 1976 Canada Cup with Team Canada and was named tournament MVP ... His 139 points (78 games) in 1970-71 still a season record for a defenceman ... Received Order of Canada in 1979 ... Played only 26 games for the Blackhawks over three seasons before retiring due to his chronic knee problems ... Bruins retired his No. 4 on Jan. 9, 1979, his official retirement date at age 30 ... Mandatory three-year waiting period waived for Orr to be inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 at age 31, the youngest to receive the honour ... He was one of eight flag bearers for 2010 Vancouver Olympics opening ceremonies.

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Story Social Media

End of Story Social Media

Comments are closed.