Bobby Orr reflects on two Bruins-Blues series, 49 years apart
Bronzed and beautiful, forever frozen in time, Bobby Orr soars through the air above Portal Park, just a few feet from Causeway Street near the new entrance to the Boston Garden. Fans will stream past the statue and maybe pause for a photo on their way in Monday night when the Bruins open their Stanley Cup Final series against the St. Louis Blues.
It is the most famous moment in Bruins history, and a couple of years ago was officially voted the second-greatest moment in NHL history (some stupid Mario Lemieux five-goal game won out). It represents the Big Bad Bruins of the 1970s, and the last time the Blues were in the Stanley Cup Final.
Photos and video replays of the goal are ubiquitous, and everyone from Ted Williams to Blues goalie Glenn Hall at one time or another teased Orr by asking, “Is that the only goal you ever scored?’’
Does the great Bobby Orr ever tire of seeing the grainy video?
“Well, I don’t come home at night and say, ‘Well, let’s throw it on,’ ’’ he says with a laugh.
Orr won’t have to fire up the old DVD or videocassette over the next couple of weeks. NBC and every other sports outlet in North America will have the moment ready for constant replay.
“Yes, I see it sometimes, but I don’t look for it,’’ Orr says. “That was a great time for hockey in Boston. It had been a long time since we’d won here for our fans and our teammates. There’s so much attention to it now.
“We’ve lost some of the guys — Johnny Pie [McKenzie] and Doakie [Gary Doak] and Billy Speer. I wish the boys were all still here. I still see a lot of the guys, so it’s nice to have that wonderful memory from 49 years ago, and these guys and fans now will have their own memories for 50 years from now. So that’s great.’’
Orr, now 71, is a player agent who sometimes feels conflicted when he represents players on opposing teams. He represented Patrick Sharp of the Blackhawks when the Bruins played Chicago in the 2013 Cup Final. This year is easier. His only client is Charlie McAvoy of the Bruins.
“I’ve got a ‘B’ tattooed on my arm — who do you think I’m rooting for?’’ Orr says with a laugh (there is no tattoo).
“I’ve watched the Bruins a lot this year,’’ he continues. “I’m really impressed with every player. The [Matt] Grzelcyk kid. They played when they’re called upon. Connor Clifton, when they put him in. On and on.
“I don’t think [Kevan] Miller will be back, but he was a solid player. John Moore. [Steven] Kampfer. Everybody contributes, and that’s what it takes to win. That’s what’s happening. They really have been solid and they’ve played some tough hockey. I’m really happy for them.
“I’m excited for what the Bruins have done. For today’s Bruins and today’s fans. We had our time 49 years ago with St. Louis. I still have wonderful memories. And I am happy for them all now.
“I think this series features two of the best stories in hockey this year. I don’t think the Bruins were picked to be in the Stanley Cup Finals. And they’ve come through injuries. And you look at St. Louis and they were in last place in the league. They’re a big team and they played really physical against the Sharks. So we have two very nice stories.
“Tuukka [Rask] is the best that I’ve ever seen him play. To win, you need your big guys to score, but the third and fourth lines for the Bruins have been really good. That gives a team energy. Charlie Coyle was a great deal for the Bruins. Everybody is contributing. Their defense has been solid. They just play solid hockey.
“The Columbus series was a tough series, but the Bruins hung in. This series is going to be a tough series. I love the team. I’m really happy for them. I think Cam [Neely] and [Don] Sweeney have done a really good job. [Bruce] Cassidy has done a hell of a job getting everyone to believe. He’s got them buying into his system.’’
Does Orr think the long layoff will be a problem?
“I think the Bruins will be focused,’’ he says. “They’ll be ready. And now the Blues have six days off. With all the talk, I think this Bruins team will be even more focused and they’ll be fine.”
Orr will be at Game 1 Monday. He will not be walking by his statue on the way into the Garden.
“I haven’t walked by it in a long time,’’ he says. “Once in a while, I would drive by it when it was at the other end, before the construction. I get a lot of photos from friends who are in front of it, but that’s not for me.
“Forty-nine years ago,” he says. “Unbelievable. We could say, ‘It seems like yesterday.’ Well, it doesn’t seem like yesterday, but it doesn’t seem that long ago.
“My gosh. I do remember a lot. We used to stay at the Hilton in Lynnfield. It was so hot that day, Mother’s Day, remember that? And I believe Derek [Sanderson] was in a tuxedo.
“But I remember that Sunday, absolutely. Oh my gosh. In overtime, [coach] Harry [Sinden] started Swoop [Wayne Carleton], Derek, and [Eddie] Westfall. Probably our best defensive lineup. Harry just wanted everybody to settle down and have a good first shift.”
Forty seconds into the shift, history happened. And 49 years later, Orr still hasn’t touched the ground.