What would you have done if you were the GM of the Boston Bruins and had to make this major decision. All along you’ve had the world’s best player, Bobby Orr. He’d turned the fortunes around for the Bruins, was loved and cherished, and had done more for the team than the team had done for him.
But you let him get away when he became a free agent, and the next thing you know, the player Bruins’ fans thought would be a Bruin forever, was now a Chicago Black Hawk.
What would you have done?
Talks in Boston collapsed with bitterness stemming from Boston’s refusal to pay Orr what he and his agent Alan Eagleson thought he was worth. And what was he worth? Orr had had five operations on his left knee in nine years and had missed most of the previous season because of his knee. The Bruins had also been given private medical advice that Orr would probably not play again, or if he did, not well and not long. And Orr and Eagleson wanted $600,000 for five years while the Bruins’ best offer was $350,000.
And because of all that, he was gone. If you were part of the Bruins’ decision makers, would you have kept him after looking at these medical problems? He still wanted to play, wanted a big raise, and there was no assurance he would even play.
What a dilemna. If it was me, I might have done the same as the Bruins. It wasn’t like they were turning their back on a player who had done so much for them. It probably was going to be money down the drain, and after all, hockey is a business. Don’t forget, Orr still planned on playing.
As it turned out, Orr played great in the 1976 Canada Cup and was voted top player in the tournament. But much of his magic was gone, and his acceleration and great skating, which were his biggest attributes, were only just a memory. His career was, for all intents and purposes, finished. He played just 26 games over three years in Chicago, and he never cashed a Hawks paycheck because, as he said, he was paid to play hockey.
It’s all very sad, but in my mind, the Bruins weren’t villains at all. They simply did what made sense.