Their local residence was the dusty old Boston Garden, with its funky, undersized sheet of ice, but the Bruins of a half-century ago held property rights across virtually every inch of New England. They owned the conversations of our family rooms, our classrooms, our boardrooms, and barrooms.
Even the polished chrome parts of our Chevys and Fords were in their clutches.
“Jesus Saves!” read the omnipresent bumper sticker of the day. “Esposito Scores on the Rebound!”
They were Boston’s darlings, big and bad and beloved, swashbucklers adored as our moms’ favorites. There was Espo, Pie, Cheesie, and the Chief. And of course Turk, the long-haired Derek Sanderson with his devilish grin and sublime hands that handled pucks nearly as well as they embraced every part of life away from hockey.
The best of the bunch wore No. 4, and we knew him simply as Bobby. On the afternoon of May 10, 1970, inside the sweltering and dusty old barn on Causeway Street, it was the 22-year-old Robert Gordon Orr who tucked home Sanderson’s return relay and delivered the Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 29 years, dating back to Milt Schmidt, Bill Cowley, Frankie Brimsek, and the dark days of World War II.
On 5/10, time stopped precisely at 5:10 p.m., Orr’s feat frozen in time, forever glorified and magnified by a black-and-white photo that caught him in flight above the ice, stick raised, eyes wide, face jubilant. It was the captured dream from which no one cared to be awakened.
“We had a very strong bond with the fans,” Orr recalled Wednesday morning, chatting from his winter home in Florida. “Our guys were out everywhere. Fans weren’t nervous to walk up to them, approach them. It was a very, very special time for all of us.
“We were in a position now to realize a dream — and that was to be on a Stanley Cup team. I don’t think we had any players on the team that had won a Cup, so it was very, very special for everyone."
We grew to accept, then take for granted that Orr could perform the impossible. Then on Mother’s Day in 1970, less than a year after man first stepped on the moon, he took Isaac Newton’s law of gravity, turned it inside-out, and tossed it aside.
. . .
Bobby Orr flew. No one expected less. Certainly not Terry Crisp, the one-time Bruins prospect, then age 26, who watched from the St. Louis bench when Orr’s goal finished off the Blues and clinched the Cup 40 seconds into overtime of Game 4 of the Cup Final.
“I was one of the guys in that series assigned to shadow Bobby, me and Jimmy Roberts,“ recalled Crisp, working then under the eye of third-year Blues coach — and legend in the making — Scotty Bowman. “Sure, watch Bobby. Yeah, OK, Scotty, really nice of you. Don’t open your shirt because your heart’ll fall out.”
Crisp knew Orr from their childhood days in Parry Sound, Ontario. He knew his pal’s speed, summoned in a flash, and he knew his dumbfounding wizardry with the puck. He knew the patented Orr move at the offensive blue line in which he would twirl away from a check, maintain possession, race into the slot for a pass or shot. He knew the frustration that came with trying to slow Orr, corral him, resist the unremitting force.
Boston goalie Gerry Cheevers once kidded that when Orr was on, owning the puck and playing keep-away from forecheckers, he would holler to teammate Phil Esposito, “Hey, Phil, I’ve got a Racing Form here if you’d like something to read.”
A frustrated Bowman, noted Crisp, shouted something similar Orr’s way from the Blues bench.
“Scotty’s favorite expression would be, ‘Bobby! Hey, Bobby! Would you give us the puck so we can play, too?’ ” recalled Crisp, now 76 and long a mainstay on the Nashville Predators broadcast team. “That was Scotty’s sarcasm, loud enough so we could all hear it on the bench and get the message: ‘Are you dummies going to get the puck from him?’ ”
In Game 4, the Blues turned in their best effort of the series, after handing over the first three games by an aggregate 16-4. The only real test in the postseason for the mighty Orr et al had been the Rangers, who stretched the opening round to six games. In Round 2, the Cup semis, the Bruins polished off Bobby Hull and the Black Hawks in four straight.
“We weren’t in the same class,” Bowman, 86, recalled last week from his home outside Sarasota, Fla. “We were fortunate to get into overtime. We had Jimmy Roberts following Orr everywhere for the first two or three games, but we couldn’t handle [John] Bucyk and all the other guys. They were just too much, eh?”
Bucyk, in fact, scored the 3-3 equalizer in Game 4 with 6:32 remaining in regulation to set the stage for overtime. The Chief artfully tipped the puck over goalie Glenn Hall’s shoulder off of Johnny “Pie” McKenzie’s dish from the right wing. Ricky Smith, who opened the day’s scoring off a patented sweep feed from Sanderson, picked up the other assist on the Bucyk goal.
“That’s a goal I remember,” Bucyk said. “We were down, 3-2, and that got us even. Then it’s OT, with Derek and Bobby and all that.”
The Garden was a pungent steam bath that afternoon, with the outdoor temperature around 90 degrees. During the WBZ Radio broadcast, Fred Cusick and analyst Johnny Peirson repeatedly referred to how hot it was in the old building. The only semblance of air conditioning was the same as when the building opened in 1928 — generated by the game programs that fans waved in front of their faces.
“I don’t know about you, Fred,” Peirson mused late in the second period, “but I’ve lost four or five pounds and I haven’t done anything physical.“
In 1970, Kevin Paul Dupont was 17 years old, listening to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on WBZ. He recorded the game using his then state-of-the-art cassette player. Listen to some of it here:
The strategy for overtime
The game was on national television, shown in Boston on what was then WHDH, the CBS affiliate on Channel 5. When it headed into overtime, it was cutting into the station’s coverage of the Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland, but WHDH was committed to showing the rest of the action at the Garden.
In the Bruins dressing room, players wondered what line combination coach Harry Sinden would use to open overtime. The big line had Esposito between Wayne Cashman and Ken Hodge, followed by the postseason’s most prolific trio that had Fred Stanfield between Bucyk on the left wing and McKenzie on the right.
“No way in hell were we going back to St. Louis,” recalled Esposito, reached last week at his home in Tampa. “So I’m sitting between Chief and Derek, and I say, ‘Don’t worry about it, Turk, if my line starts, we’re going to score right away.’ Turk says, ‘No, if we start, we’re going to score right away.’ And then Chief says, ‘Hey, what happens if my line starts?’ ”
Sinden wasn’t sure that Bowman would open OT with his strength, the No. 1 line that had Red Berenson with Larry Keenan on the left and Tim Ecclestone on the right. But he was certain that he didn’t want to give the Blues the chance to strike early. He had a talented, eager team, only one shot from winning the Cup. Poise mattered.
“Great lines like Esposito’s line and Stanfield’s line, if there is a fault to them, it’s that they’ll once in a while get overexcited and take chances and take risks,” Sinden, 87, said during a conference call Monday. “I think that’s what I was thinking at the time.”
Sure enough, Bowman went with his power line, centered by Berenson. It was a goal by Keenan (Cheevers’s teammate during junior hockey days in Ontario) that had staked the Blues to a 3-2 lead 19 seconds into the third period.
“I had a very weak game,” recalled Cheevers, 79, reached at his home near Delray Beach, Fla. “We win, 4-3, and all that, but I let in two [expletive] goals. If not for those — and I like to kid Bobby about this — heck, it never gets into overtime and you might never have heard of him.”
‘We win, 4-3, and all that, but I let in two [expletive] goals. If not for those — and I like to kid Bobby about this — heck, it never gets into overtime and you might never have heard of him.’
Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers
Sinden ultimately called for Sanderson between Wayne “Swoop” Carleton at left wing and the ever-steady Eddie Westfall on the right, supported by a back line of Don Awrey on the left and Orr on the right.
“It made sense, sure,” said Esposito. “Heck, we only cared we didn’t have to go back to St. Louis. This way we could party for another three days!”
“I can tell you this,” Sanderson said. “Phil was bummed it wasn’t his line out there.”
The puck went down at 5:09 p.m., the Bruins immediately pressing in the Blues end of the ice and keeping it there until the job was finished. In the final sequence, Orr pinched way down on the right wall, meeting up with Keenan where the outer edge of the circle nearly kisses the boards.
Not what Bowman wanted to see. He knew Orr played every other shift, often upward of 40 minutes a night, sometimes more. Bowman hoped that his Blues could maintain possession long enough and maybe strike for the game-winner when Orr ducked off to the bench for a breather.
“But he stayed in,” recalled Bowman, who went on to coach nine Cup winners, including four during the last Montreal dynasty (1976-79). “The puck went around the boards and Keenan was trying to fish for it. But Bobby got there. Even if he didn’t get there first, he got the puck.
"He’d do that all the time, because he was so fast. Even if he didn’t get the puck, he was so fast, he’d get back and cover on defense.
“There was no one like Orr. No one had his speed, his gears.”
Sanderson was behind the goal line, his rear end backed against the boards, about a stick-length from the right post as Orr advanced with the puck toward the goal line. Orr passed to Sanderson and broke on a straight line toward the right post, where only defenseman Noel Picard stood guard.
“Jean-Guy Talbot, the other defenseman, made a play for me in back," Sanderson said. “Mistake.
“He leaves Bobby alone and comes to me. If he stays there, I have to carry it out. Once Bobby was clean, it was just a little flip out and . . . bink!”
Talbot witnessed it all from behind the net, the definition of no man’s land, as Orr shot. It was Picard, originally a Canadiens defenseman, who jammed his stick between Orr’s legs, lifted, and sent him airborne toward the left faceoff circle. Every camera lens in the building was fixed on No. 4.
“When I went across, I did see the puck go in, and I was jumping,” recalled Orr. “Noel Picard did have his stick under my ankle. He did lift me, yes, but I saw it go in and I was also jumping with joy.”
Hall, 88, has kidded repeatedly through the decades that he thinks that must have been the only goal Orr ever scored. Otherwise, why would fans always ask him to sign that wonderful picture, snapped by the Record American’s Ray Lussier, with the exuberant Orr flying through the air?
“Glenn’s other favorite line,” mused Crisp last week, “is that he was off the ice, showered, and enjoying a beer by the time Bobby landed.”
Sanderson, who will turn 74 next month, wasn’t watching Orr’s flight path after his pal shoveled the puck between Hall’s pads. Instead, his eye was trained on the beautiful vulcanized rubber jewel that just got deposited in the back of the cage.
“The puck went in so fast, and I saw it hit the net,” he said. “I was actually pretty stunned. I stand there for a second, watch the puck land . . . and roll . . . and spin . . . and boom! So I look at the puck, and I look at the referee [Bruce Hood], and I say to myself, ‘No penalty. Perfect!’ ”
In the WBZ booth, an elated Cusick bellowed, “Bobby Orr from Sanderson. And what could be better than that?! As they beat St Louis, 4-3. Orr to Sanderson back to Orr. And they go wild!”
The goal was scored at the west end of the old Garden, in the direction of Cambridge Street. Scores of fans, most of them teenaged and twentysomething males, spilled over the short panes of glass along the sideboards and onto the ice, leading, in part, to the teams conducting a somewhat hurried handshake line near the net where Orr scored.
Kevin Vautour, 69, now a retired driving instructor for the MBTA, watched it all unfold from his season ticket location in the balcony at the east end: Section 101, Row G, Seat 7. Cost: $5.
“I can’t say every player on both sides shook hands at the end,” he said. “It was a scraggly line, kind of stretched out from sideboard to sideboard. Before you knew it, no one was paying much attention and things began to congregate for the Cup ceremony at center ice.”
Retired Globe photographer Frank O’Brien, now 79, captured Orr’s goal on black-and-white film from his position at the face of the side balcony near center ice. O’Brien clicked off a seven-frame sequence of pictures, published frequently in the Globe over the last half-century, that details the legendary defenseman’s approach and finish.
“Bobby gets the puck, then he’s up and over and down, and then all his teammates piling on,” recalled O’Brien, reached at his winter home in Fort Myers, Fla. “As soon as he gave the puck to Sanderson, I knew exactly what was going to happen because Sanderson can’t do anything with it where he is, nearly behind the net.
"No idea, of course, if Bobby’s going to score, but I knew he would get it back.”
The party is on
In a hurried on-ice ceremony, NHL president Clarence Campbell handed the Cup to Bucyk, then about to turn 35 and the eldest of the club’s four alternate captains. Chief hoisted the Cup with scores of fans still racing all over the ice and took it for a quick skate before hightailing it down to the east end and into the Bruins dressing room.
“We filled it with champagne” recalled Bucyk. “Most guys drank beer. I know I never drank champagne, but I did that day.”
Channel 5 dumped the CBS feed after only two minutes, switching viewers to the Sox game in Oakland, which by then was in the third inning. Irate viewers swamped the WHDH switchboard with complaints. WBZ Radio stayed with the on-ice action and then, along with WSBK-TV (Channel 38), covered the raucous dressing room celebration.
Marvin Pave, a Globe sportswriter there that day who still contributes occasionally to the section, cranked out a sidebar on Doug Orr, Bobby’s father.
“What I remember most is the noise — everywhere,” recalled Pave, now 75. “It was deafening in the building long after Orr scored, and in the room. I could barely hear Bobby’s father as the two of us spoke in the room. There were tears in his eyes.”
‘It was deafening in the building long after Orr scored, and in the room. I could barely hear Bobby’s father as the two of us spoke in the room. There were tears in his eyes.’
Marvin Pave, former Globe sportswriter
Guy Mainella, the first host of daily sports talk radio in Boston, handled on-ice interviews for WBZ.
“The Cup once again comes to Boston,” proclaimed the host of “Calling All Sports,” “and the quiet warrior John Bucyk moves away from center ice and skates around the rink, holding high the Stanley Cup.”
A hurried Orr thanked Mainella and said he would have to talk to him later. An elated Sinden, who would leave the team that summer to work briefly in the modular home industry, was far more excited and chatty.
“Isn’t this exciting? Wow!” Sinden, then 37, told Mainella. “I’m glad my mother bought me a pair of skates 30 year ago.”
The sellout crowd of 14,385 eventually streamed out to Causeway Street and packed tight into North Station. The party was on in the old West End.
Globe news reporter Steve Kurkjian waded into the crowd for his man-on-the-street report of the celebration, and referred to one “mini-skirted lass” enjoying the party on Causeway Street. Times were changing.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she told Kurkjian. “And we are not going to let it die down for a long time to come.”
Crisp said he was certain to shake Orr’s hand before leaving the building, kidding that failing to do so left him at risk of incurring his pal’s wrath when they returned to Parry Sound over the summer.
Homeboy or not, winner or loser, it’s best to leave on good terms with someone who can fly.
“I’ve never seen a player of Orr’s magnitude,” said Crisp. “He would go back, get the puck, lead the rush, make the play, and then go back and be the first one to defend.
"Who the hell does that? No one can do all that. So it must have been twins, that’s all I can figure.”
More than one Orr? If true, a half-century later, the second one has never been found.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.