Category Archives: Bobby Orr

Ticket To Orillia Please

I think it’s pretty darn important that you include Orillia in your future travel plans.

Why would you not? It was the home of Gordon Lightfoot, Stephen Leacock, and Dino’s pool hall for goodness sakes.

In Bobby Orr’s new book “Orr, My Story”, he says his hockey school with Mike Walton was in the Muskokas. It wasn’t. It was just outside Orillia, which is below the Muskokas.

In fact, the only time he mentioned Orillia was when he said his former agent and ex-friend Alan Eagleson had a cottage near there.

It took Gordon Lightfoot about twenty years into his fame to say he was from Orillia and not Toronto.

Stephen Leacock changed the name from Orillia to Mariposa in his book “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”.

Dino’s pool hall burned down.

And my ongoing unofficial poll, which I’ve conducted for years, asks the question to old friends who now live in places not called Orillia. “Could you ever live in Orillia again?”, to which probably 98% say no.

I, on the other hand, could. And someday I think I might. I’ve dealt with my issues from when I was an older teen and into my 20s. I think.

See? It says on the pennant below that the Orr-Walton Camp was in Orillia, not Muskoka.

And about the Lightfoot thing, maybe it didn’t help that a guy I knew went in through an unlocked back door at a Lightfoot concert at Orillia’s Opera House and stole Gordon’s or one of the band member’s leather jacket.

Orr

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Cream Of The Crop

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Howe

Gretzky

The best ever? It’s been written and talked about forever.

I don’t care. I want to talk about it too. It’s cold and I don’t want to go out.

There’s no real definitive answer I think, but it can be broken down in stages.

Howie Morenz in the 20s and 30s. Maurice Richard’s name was added in the 40s. Gordie Howe and the Rocket in the 50s.

It was all Howe in the 1960s, although Bobby Hull’s name was tossed around by some, and Bobby Orr showed up in the latter part of the 1960s and into the 70s.

Then Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky came along and ruled the 80s and 90s.

Gretzky’s name comes up much more than Mario’s, but Mario, before he got sick, would take a back seat to no one and ended with 1723 points in 915 regular season games, including an 85-goal season in ’88-89.

Maybe Mario is underrated when it comes time to talk about the best ever. He was big and smart with hands of gold.

Sidney Crosby is great of course, but he’s not in this stratosphere. Not yet at least. I wonder if some would disagree about that.

Usually, it boils down to three guys when this topic comes up – Howe, Orr, and Gretzky.

My choice is Bobby Orr.

Although I would see Gordie Howe play a number of times over the years on television (once live at Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-’60s), he never seemed to completely control the flow of the game the way Orr did, although I know Howe was in a league of his own in almost every department.

Orr’s two years older than me and comes from the same area of Ontario. We were worlds apart as players of course, but at least I can say I  played in many of the same barns as him, maybe against some of the same guys he played against in town like Midland and Huntsville and Gravenhurst. I feel some sort of Central/Northern Ontario connection in a way.

Bobby Orr was a minor league phenom and we were talking about him with envy when we were kids. We knew about him. We heard about his exploits. Parry Sound kids my age came down to Orillia to play and I think our teams played there too. And we watched his brother Ron when his Junior C Parry Sound team played in Orillia.

I saw Orr a few times in Orillia over the years, including a night at the Atherley Arms Hotel when he was at a table with friends and a guy with a few too many drinks in his belly came up to Bobby and was rude and vulgar, which wasn’t cool.

I also by chance walked by him and his wife Peggy in the Orillia park one day and said hi, and they both smiled and said hi back.

I saw him play when he was 16 in an exhibition game in Bracebridge. He was with the Oshawa Generals at the time, but on this night he suited up with the Orillia Terriors senior team against a Muskoka all-star senior team. Orr had the puck all night, and we could see other players – talented, grown men – laughing and shaking their heads at how good this teenager was.

Orr skated like no other defenceman, he had different bursts of speed, he charged the net and racked up points like no other defenceman, and he controlled the play like no other player on the ice. He was also strong and smart, and when it came time to drop the gloves, he could be nasty.

That’s a complete player to me. He did it all and cruelly it didn’t last long because of his bad knees (10 seasons in Boston and a short stint in Chicago). But what a player he was before his knees did him in.

Orr himself says Gordie Howe was the best ever. He played against Howe and watched Gretzky throughout 99′s career. But it’s Howe he chooses, as do many.

Howe wasn’t flashy like the Rocket, Orr and Gretzky, but every pass from him was on the tape, his shot was as hard or harder than any player in the league, he was as good or better a goal scorer as there was, and he was a mean hombre, the toughest player in the league. Punches that crushed noses.

No one dared fight him. He struck fear into the hearts of others, but they respected him. To go into the corners with him was never a good thing. His elbows were legendary.

And of course Wayne Gretzky. You need a fancy calculator and about an hour to tally his records. There’s a legion of players and fans who insist he’s the greatest ever. It’s been said often that in the heat of battle, he thought two or three plays ahead. It was ridiculous how he could rack up the points.

But I go with Bobby Orr. Orr had it figured out ahead of time like Gretzky did. It’s some sort of miraculous instinct. He was a better skater than Gretzky, there’s no comparison in toughness, and he collected reams of points even though he was a defenceman.

He also comes from my neck of the woods and from the same era, which is important to me.

The only Boston Bruin I was ever a fan of.

 

 

Fergy, Ted, & Douglas

Douglas Murray stepped up to the plate Wednesday night in Buffalo against big John Scott, and although his face was bloodied, he gave the big tree a good run for his money.

Shouldn’t Scott be elsewhere? Like holding up a circus tent maybe?

I have a whole new level of admiration for the Swede with the English name. Previously I’d only noticed a guy who isn’t a great skater, can be caught out of position, who makes the odd mistake and never contributes to the scoresheet. But he hits hard, and I see now he’s got guts.

I’m proud that he took one for the team and showed that the Canadiens aren’t to be pushed around. Thank you Douglas.

In appreciation of him, I’ve dug out a couple of old photos from two tough Habs, back when they were still in the American Hockey League with the Cleveland Barons.

John Ferguson and Ted Harris, who took no prisoners in the 1960s. Although Harris did have his hands full with a young Bobby Orr, who could scrap with the best of them.

We don’t want John Scott-types on the team, but we’ll take a couple of Fergy and Harris-types any day.

Fergy’s reputation is spread far and wide. Ted Harris’ – not so much.

This is what Canadiens.com’s historical section says about him:

“Game in and game out, Harris’ physical game played an important role in the Canadiens success in the 1960s. He tangled with incoming forwards, kept the Montreal crease free of upright enemy players, applied some of the heaviest checks in the NHL and, on more than a few occasions, inflicted fistic retribution on those foolish enough to take liberties with his more subtly skilled teammates.”

Here they are as Barons – circa 1963, just prior to joining the Canadiens on a regular basis. (I apologize for the less-than-great quality).

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Friday’s Washington Game

Couldn’t see all of the Friday night Habs-Washington tilt, I’m in Ottawa at a family reunion,, and all I know from glancing back and forth from time to time was that Alex Galchenyuk looked good playing on the right side with Morenz at centre and Joliat on left wing.

I also thought the pairing of P.K. Subban and Doug Harvey on the blueline was a good fit, especially on the power play when Harvey outsmarted three Capitals, sent it over, and PK blasted one home.

Max Pacioretty, playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard, dinged more than one biscuit off the post and apparently enjoyed a fine night all round. Playing with Le Gros Bill and Rocket seems to really agree with Patches, and I hope Toe Therrien keeps them together.

I also hope Toe sticks with the Lach, Bournival, and Lafleur line as well. I see good chemistry there. And anytime now I’m expecting the Steve Shutt, Lars Eller, and Brendan Gallagher triumvirate to finally break out of the doldrums.

The problem is, neither Peter Budaj in the first two periods and Jacques Plante, who replaced Budaj in the third, could handle Alex Ovechkin, who had the two netminders’ numbers in a big way. And it certainly didn’t help when John Ferguson was sent to the box for goalie mugging and shortly after, Brandon Prust for tripping, and it was left to Claude Provost and Tomas Plekanec to kill unnecessary and ill-timed penalties.

Although I must admit, I enjoyed seeing Sprague Cleghorn coldcock the obnoxious Mikhail Grabovski, even though it put us behind the eight-ball once again.

The team really has to get it together. Bobby Orr and the big, bad Bruins are well ahead in first place, and Tampa Bay continues to play well. And if Phil Kessel and Dave Keon continue their torrid goal scoring pace, Toronto’s going to be tough.

Habs get it done/not done in Washington Friday night. And they’ll have their hands full when the Penguins come to town on Saturday.

It’ll be nice when Cournoyer finally gets back.

Face-Off

I went to see Face-Off in downtown Toronto when it was brand new in the theatres. It was sort of interesting. Some great players had cameos in this Canadian story of a folk singer and a hockey player having problems because of the difference in lifestyles, but without the decent hockey footage, I think the story would suck.

Rick Ley, a kid from the neighborhood in Orillia playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the time, was in it and I even think he had a one-line speaking role.

In the U.S. the movie is called “Winter Comes Early”. I don’t know why. Maybe the studio was worried that too many people, particularly in the warmer areas, wouldn’t have a clue what the title meant.

I like the last paragraph in the clipping below about Jacques Plante.

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Happy Labour Day

Happy Labour Day, or Labor Day in the U.S.

I feel sorry for those who don’t work. They don’t get this holiday.

I’ve noticed that Sens fans aren’t crazy about Daniel Alfredsson right now. No loyalty to the Senators from Alfie, they’re saying. Go for a few bucks more in Detroit and end his career there instead of in Ottawa, where it should have ended.

Maybe he should have stayed, I don’t know. He probably feels that the city of Detroit is just too beautiful to pass up on. And I can’t talk. I showed absolutely no loyalty to the Otaco factory in Orillia when I went uptown for lunch one day and never came back.

Just saw on the news that man has grown 11 cm (4.33 inches) since 1870. It gets my heart pumping, because if I can live for just 115 more years, I’ll finally be a six-footer!  And if David Desharnais can play for another 143 years, he will be too!

Also on the news today was a story about 56 gnomes showing up at the water treatment plant in Parry Sound – Gnomes in Parry Sound . When I read this and saw that the gnomes were described as “human-like creatures”, I thought it was tremendously heart-warming that 56 Boston Bruins players would make the trip to Parry Sound to pay homage to the town’s most famous citizen, Bobby Orr, the greatest Bruin of them all.

But then the article said the gnomes were small and plastic and they didn’t mention hideously ugly, so I realized it wasn’t Bruins players after all. I wish news writers would sometimes be more clear.

Subban And Karlsson

Some of my buddies I was with in Ottawa this weekend said that when comparing PK Subban and Erik Karlsson, it’s ridiculous to even talk about. It’s a no-brainer. Karlsson is way better.

Do you feel that?

These are two different defensemen. Karlsson methodically takes control, makes the plays, and is always dangerous. When he came back from his injury last year, he wasn’t overly impressive, but before that he was a major force on all parts of the ice, especially in enemy zone, and he gets back smartly the way Bobby Orr used to.

P.K. is a whirling dervish and dangerous in his own right. Full steam ahead, flamboyantly possessed, with the enthusiasm of a kid playing on the pond. He skates like the wind, has the big shot, and plays like he’s about to physically explode. He rushes and gets back quickly too, but he seems to end up on the ice more, makes more mistakes, and isn’t the cool cucumber Karlsson is.

Is it better to have a special player like Karlsson – smart, in control, often dangerous, and a guy who seems to do everything well? Or like P.K., who raises fans out of their seats with his dynamic rushes and bone crunching open-ice bodychecks, who’s the big man on the power play, the one who on most nights creates a buzz in the rink like no other player?

One of my friends complained about P.K.’s habit of submarining people. And my brother also said recently that what he didn’t like about Subban was his turtling and lack of enthusiasm when it came time to drop the gloves.

Are these valid points?

What if P.K. corrects a few things here and there and becomes even more dynamic? What if he wins the Norris again? What would my friends say?

My wish is this. Along with being such a media darling and doing a great job on sports panels, I wish P.K. would take boxing lessons and show the hockey world he’s added fighting finesse to his arsenal. Maybe George Chuvalo can put him in touch with someone.

I don’t know what Karlsson can do in the fisticuffs department. Can he scrap?

I’m anxious to see how both young stars develop. C’mon P.K., I gotta deal with these Sens fans. Help me out here.

Tale of the Tape

P.K.

24 years old. 6′ 206 lbs, has played 3 full seasons, 202 games, with 32 goals, 82 assists, 302 PIM.

Karlsson

23 years old. 6′, 175 lbs, 3-plus seasons, 233 games, with 43 goals, 120 assists, 124 PIM.

 

 

Cool Clear Watters

Bill Watters, Bobby Orr, Mike Walton, and Rob Street at the Orr-Walton Sports Camp in Orillia. (from the Orillia Packet and Times).

Orr Walton

Thanks to Ron Green, Mike Mohun, and Don McIsaac for sending a story from the Orillia Packet and Times about Bill Watters, which you can see right here.

Watters, from Orillia, was, among other things, a players agent with Alan Eagleson, Team Canada bigwig, assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a TV analyst for Sportsnet. Quite a resume.

Don mentions that Rob Street, on the right, was one of two Orillians to ever hoist the Memorial Cup, the other being Rick Ley.