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Thursday, 9 June 2011

TBC: The Bobby Orr Story

I have to say that I have been very impressed with Boston honouring the greats that have played before this current edition of the Bruins. Cam Neely was named as the honourary captain before Game Three while Bobby Orr was given the same honour for Game Four. While I have reviewed Stephen Brunt's book on Bobby Orr before this, I think it's only appropriate to honour Bobby Orr once more. Today, Teebz's Book Club is proud to present a book written about Bobby Orr long before I was born as we take a look at The Bobby Orr Story, written by John Devaney and published by Random House Incorporated. Mr. Devaney's look at the career and accomplishments of Bobby Orr was published back in 1973 while Orr was still a household name, so I thought it would be interesting to read about Bobby Orr's life up to that point.

I was unable to find any images of Mr. Devaney to help put a face to the writing, but I did find something that saddened me: his obituary. Mr. Devaney passed away in May of 1994 after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 68. Mr. Devaney's list of books that he wrote is impressive, though. After graduating from New York University in 1949 and after having served in World War II, Mr. Devaney "was a writer and editor at Science Illustrated, Quick and Parade magazines before becoming a freelance writer in 1961. The subjects of his books, many still in print, included World War II, sports and the lives of Presidents". The sports books included stories "about Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Roger Clemens, the Stanley Cup and winners of the Heisman Trophy".

The most obvious thing I can tell you about The Bobby Orr Story, having been published in 1973, is that it certainly doesn't cover all that Bobby Orr did in his illustrious career while with the Oshawa Generals and the Boston Bruins. It does, however, provide an interesting insight into Bobby Orr's early career before knee injuries derailed his legendary status in the game of hockey.

The story starts with a glimpse into the life of a little boy from Perry Sound, Ontario who was born on March 20, 1948. There's a little bit of information on Doug Orr, Bobby's father, who also had an opportunity to suit up with the Boston Bruins at the age of 18, but Canada was at war in World Way I, and the elder Orr decided to sign up with the Canadian Navy to do his part for his country. Bobby first his the ice in the winter of 1951 at the age of three, and his father saw what a lot of fathers of first-time skaters see: Bobby was an ankle-bender.

It was a tournament in Gananoque, Ontario that exposed Orr's talents to NHL scouts as teams had sent several men each to look for 14 year-old players who would agree to be groomed by one of the six NHL teams. Boston, which had found itself depleted of young talent, desperately needed to dig up someone special having finished in last-place in the NHL, and they had to have that player agree to be property of the Bruins. The Bruins sent president Weston Adams, general manager Lynn Patrick, and assistants Milt Schmidt and Wren Blair to Gananoque to scout two defencemen - Rick Eaton and Doug Higgins - that they thought could be difference-makers for the Bruins in the future. However, it was the scrawny #2 on the Perry Sound team that skated gracefully that caught the eyes of Schmidt and Blair! But the two Bruins executives would soon find out that #2 was twelve year-old Bobby Orr.

There are a ton of excellent quotes from various NHL personalities in The Bobby Orr Story, and Mr. Devaney has done a good job at working them in throughout the chapters. In a chapter entitled "Eighteen Speeds of Fast", Milt Schmidt spoke of the acceleration that Orr possessed.

"Bobby is deceptive," said Bruin official Milt Schmidt. "He has two speeds. And it doesn't take him the usual three, four or five strides to accelerate from one speed to another. One stride, and he's away.

Ted Green disagreed with his boss. "He's got 18 speeds of fast," Green said, "and I don't think he's reached his fastest speed yet."
Everyone speaks of Wayne Gretzky's ability to get to where the puck is going to be rather than waiting for the puck to him, but people saw this same vision on the ice in Orr years before they did in Gretzky. Lynn Patrick saw the sixteen year-old Orr with the Oshawa Generals, and knew the Bruins had someone special.
"He amazes me every time I see him," said the Bruins' Lynn Patrick. "The way he can anticipate what's going to happen is sometimes uncanny. He senses where the puck is going to be and moves there even before the puck does."
One of the best chapters in the book is entitled "... A Genuinely Good Person". It is in this chapter that Mr. Devaney shows how humble and personable that Bobby Orr was during the height of his career. During a celebration on July 4, 1970 in Parry Sound - a day known as "Bobby Orr Day" - Orr saw more than 40,000 people show up to honour him, and he didn't turn anyone away from a photo or an autograph. He spent more time working for charities and giving money and personal items away to help the people who made him a superstar - the fans. It was a very insightful chapter, and it speaks volumes to the amazing character of Bobby Orr.

The Bobby Orr Story itself isn't a long read as it only contains 152 pages including the index, and the book is written for a more adolescent audience. There are some amazing black-and-white photographs of Bobby Orr that separate each chapter showing Orr in action on the ice and his usual likeable self off the ice. Mr. Devaney's work in the book is very good, and he gets great quotations from everyone he interviewed. While Mr. Devaney may not be here to accept the kudos, The Bobby Orr Story certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for providing a very good look at Bobby Orr while he was still a major superstar. If you can find this book for a low price, I highly recommend picking it up for your up-and-coming superstar!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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