Monday, October 23, 2006

Searching for Bobby Orr

A new unauthorized biography explores the life and times of this reticent NHL icon.
In the late 1960s and early 70s, Orr was so famous he didn’t even need a nickname. He was Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 1970, unheard of for a hockey player. But where books about DiMaggio are almost as plentiful as his World Series titles, the literature on Orr is lacking.

"There are a lot of people who’ve wanted an Orr book for a long time but there’s a really good reason why there wasn’t one," says Stephen Brunt, author of Searching for Bobby Orr. Orr, Brunt contends, doesn’t want books written about him and remains influential enough in hockey and media circles that until now, he’s been able to prevent it from happening [...]

"I think we’re all used to these hockey card portraits of these guys. Think of how managed the images are of these guys. Sidney Crosby, on one hand you’ve been following him since he was 10 years old, on the other hand you don’t know anything about him at all."

Despite a wonky knee that would eventually cut short his career, Orr was the best player on the best team in hockey, a team that won two Stanley Cups in three years, and he was named the NHL’s top defenceman eight years in a row.

But Orr’s fame, which led to magazine covers, endorsements for hair-care products and newspaper stories about his love life, far outstripped even those achievements.

"He comes along at a very significant time, when the league doubles in size, when it has pretensions of big league grandeur for the first time," Brunt says.

"The country is kind of changing, culturally, and everybody sees 1967 as a watershed year for Canada, an awakening of nationalism in this country and he’s the best Canadian athlete of that moment. He also is handsome in kind of a boy next door way, not like Namath, who was the dangerous bad boy.

"Orr’s kind of the counterpart to that, but he was also packaged. (Player agent Alan) Eagleson did things with his image that had never been done with a hockey player before. In the sense that we understood a professional athlete now, Orr’s the first modern athlete in Canada, the first Canadian to become one of those.
I can trace the origins of my own life-looong love of hockey directly to Bobby Orr. I can still remember the day as a young boy of around 10 years of age passing a TV with a NHL game on and becoming absolutely transfixed by the magic and talent of this kid named Orr who played for Boston. What followed was years of deep devotion to those late 60's early 70's Bruin teams and a permanent addiction to the sport of hockey.

Here's much more on Orr...

Orr was the man and as far as I'm concerned he's the best that ever played. He changed the game profoundly as a player like no other in the history of the sport.


No comments: