Bobby Orr’s life is the quintessential Canadian story. He grew up in a working class North Ontario town where he and his friends played shinny for hours. When he wasn’t on the lake, Orr was shooting pucks at the back of his garage, all the while dreaming of the day he’d hoist the Stanley Cup.
And now, Orr has written a compelling story about growing up to become a hockey legend: Orr: My Story. Who can’t help but love a tale about a little guy making it big?
By age 12, Orr was already being courted by the Boston Bruins, and by 18 was in the NHL. Orr details the hard work, the sacrifice, the loneliness and the sheer determination it took to make it to the NHL, and to dominate as a pro hockey player.
The story of his journey to become one of the top three hockey players of all time works when the facts on the ice speak for themselves. Halfway through the book, however, the on-ice story ends with early retirement brought on by knee injuries. What follows is a collection of chapters about his post-hockey accomplishments, speculation about the future of hockey, and reminiscences about his celebrity friends.
Through all of these chapters, Orr doesn’t divulge secrets or say a bad word about anyone. Always known as a nice guy, he even takes it easy on Alan Eagleson — the man who very nearly ruined Orr’s life. While posing as a friend and agent, Eagleson defrauded, bullied and isolated Orr from his friends and family. And yet Orr takes full responsibility for letting this happen.
This unquestioning nature may have contributed to Orr’s ability to focus on hockey, but it wasn’t the greatest asset when it came to other pursuits. Orr failed at a career in colour commentary, and never became a coach or manager because, in his own words, he could play hockey but he just couldn’t think hockey.
According to Orr, he excelled because coaches let him play his own style of hockey. The editors of Orr: My Story probably shouldn’t have afforded him quite as much freedom when writing the book, which is strongest when documenting his life on ice. Still, in the post-play ramblings, Orr’s kindness and sense of fairness is exemplified.
And he has an excellent message for parents and coaches: Play hockey when it’s hockey season only, and play a mix of sports. For the few who will go on to play pro sports, the journey is a marathon, not a sprint. And most of all, remember that sports aren’t just for a few gifted athletes, they are for everyone.
Heather Allen is a writer and reader living in Penticton.