Bobby Orr is a former superstar NHL defenseman who played in the league for twelve years. Orr’s career spanned from 1966 to 1978 but was ultimately cut short by major knee injuries. Orr is often regarded as the greatest defenseman in NHL history, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins and holding multiple NHL records.
Bobby Orr began his NHL career with the Boston Bruins in 1966-67. Boston was the worst team in the league at that point, but Orr still managed to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and finished second in Norris Trophy voting for the league’s best defenseman. Orr was immediately a star and earned the respect of his teammates and opponents alike. Unfortunately, he also suffered his first knee injury in the NHL that season, a foreboding sign of what was to come.
Throughout the late 1960s, Orr continued to develop and improve at the NHL level. He repeatedly set new bars for offensive production by a defenseman. The Boston Bruins also drastically improved, adding many new high-level players to play with Orr. Unfortunately, Orr continued to struggle with injuries, not only to his knees but also to his collarbone and shoulder. His all-out effort, and mix of high-flying offensive play and bruising physicality probably didn’t help, though it was definitely exciting.
In 1969-70, Orr finally stayed healthy. This lead to a breakout season and his first Stanley Cup. He scored 120 points for the Bruins, six shy of the league record, and won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. It was the first time a defenseman ever won the Art Ross, and it has not been accomplished since. He also won the Hart Trophy as league MVP, the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. It was the first time a player had won four major individual awards in a single season. That feat would not be matched until 2007-08 by Capitals’ star Alexander Ovechkin.
The Bruins won the 1970 Stanley Cup over the St. Louis Blues, Boston’s first Cup win since 1941. Orr scored the series-winning goal in overtime of game four, in one of the most recognizable moments in NHL history. Known as “The Goal”, Orr received a give-and-go pass from teammate Derek Sanderson in front of the Blue’s net. He quickly shot the puck through goaltender Glenn Hall’s legs and won the Cup for the Bruins. Right as he shot the puck, Blues defenseman Noel Picard tripped Orr and sent him flying through the air. The picture and videos of Orr flying through the air with his arms raised have become some of the most famous images in hockey history.
Orr and the Bruins continued to break records in 1970-71. Orr scored 139 points that season, and the Bruins were the best team in the NHL. However, the team was defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal was led by rookie goaltender Ken Dryden, who stole the series for the Canadiens. This series is still regarded as one of the most shocking upsets in NHL playoff history.
Orr and the Bruins bounced back in 1971-72, however. They were once again a top team in the NHL and went on to win another Stanley Cup. This time they defeated the New York Rangers in six games. This was Orr’s second and final Stanley Cup victory.
As the 1970s went on, Orr continued to dominate. The Bruins would reach the finals again in 1974 but ultimately lose to the Philadelphia Flyers. After the 1975-76 season, however, Orr was set to become a free agent and his injury issues worsened. His relationship with the Bruins turned tumultuous, and he ended up signing with the Chicago Blackhawks. Injuries would limit Orr to just 26 games in a Blackhawks uniform between 1976 and 1978. He had undergone over a dozen knee surgeries and finally decided to retire in October of 1978. His playing career was over at just 30 years old, a sad turn of events for all hockey fans.
Records and Awards
Bobby Orr holds numerous NHL records including most points in a season by a defenseman (139), most assists in a season by a defenseman (102), most 100-point seasons by a defenseman (6), and highest plus/minus in a season (+124).
Orr also won many awards throughout his NHL career, including:
Two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins (1970, 1972)
Two Conn Smythe Trophies (Playoff MVP) (1970, 1972)
Three Hart Trophies (League MVP) (1970-1972)
Eight Norris Trophies (Best Defenseman) (1968-1975)
Two Art Ross Trophies (NHL leading scorer) (1970, 1975)
Bobby Orr changed the game of hockey forever and leaves behind a legacy as one of, if not the greatest, defenseman of all time. His dynamic play style changed hockey with regards to offensive production from defensemen. His point totals and ability to produce offensively as a defenseman were never before seen in the game.
Before Orr, defensemen mostly focused solely on playing defense. Orr created the role of offensive defenseman and opened the door for many great defensemen that came after him.
His #4 is retired by the Boston Bruins, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979, with the normal waiting period waived.