Bobby Orr: The Greatest Defenseman to Ever Play the Game
The greatest defenseman that ever played the game, Bobby Orr spent his entire NHL career as a Boston Bruin. He was drafted by them in 1966 and over the course of those 18 years, he made an impact on hockey unlike any other before him.
Bobby Orr grew up playing CYO and house league hockey in the town of Parry Sound, Ontario. He grew up idolizing NHL Hall of Famer Eddie Shore and his style of play even as a young boy.
His first foray into professional hockey came when he played for the Oshawa Generals as a 15-year old underage junior during the 1962-63 season. Even at such a young age, Orr’s skating ability caught the eye of many teams across the NHL. The Bruins were able to acquire his rights from the Blackhawks and Bobby signed a contract with Boston in 1963 prior to being drafted at just 17 years old.
It was during this time that he began to learn what playing for Eddie Shore meant. He had a very difficult first training camp and Shore called him “too small” and “a dumb hockey player”. Orr’s skating ability was unparalleled, but his decision making was not. He became known as an offensive defenseman which is the opposite of what Shore wanted out of him; he needed a playmaker on the back-end who could control the flow of the game.
Orr would play for the Oshawa Generals in the OHA from 1962 to 1966 and was a point per game player during his junior days. In 1965-66, he was an integral part of the Memorial Cup winning team which led to him being named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team along with future teammate Carol Vadnais.
The following year, he would make his debut with the Boston Bruins in 1966-67 at just 18 years old. The rest is history as they say.
Bobby Orr’s Playing Career
Orr began his career with the Boston Bruins during the 1966-67 season on a line alongside center Phil Esposito and left winger Ken Hodge. Esposito, who was also making his debut that year, had the best statistical season of his career alongside Orr which included scoring 76 goals and 152 points.
Orr would go on to record 29 goals and 87 points in his rookie campaign which would earn him the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He would add another 20 points in the post-season and was a key player in helping Boston win their first Stanley Cup in 29 years.
At just 19 years of age, he had become the youngest member in history to join the NHL’s 500 point club and at 21, he became the youngest captain of any team in Bruins’ history after having worn an “A” during his rookie campaign. He would go on to captain the team for eight seasons.
Orr won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman a total of eight times in a row from 1967-1975 which is an NHL record. In 1970, he also won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer with 37 goals and 102 points. Orr had a total of 270 goals and 915 assists in his career for a total of 1,185 points. He is the only defenseman to ever win the Art Ross Trophy and holds the record for most assists by a defenseman with 849 until Ron Francis passed him in 1994.
Orr helped lead Boston to another Stanley Cup win in 1970 after which into 1971, he would be diagnosed with a left knee injury that was the result of multiple ligament tears. He pushed through it and managed to suit up for the season opener before having surgery which forced him out of the lineup until mid-December.
Best Record in NHL History
Bobby Orr. 1st in plus/minus (+528), 2nd in assists (921), 2nd in points (1257). I remember reading that he used to assist on his own goals just so the other team couldn’t beat him.
Plus every game you saw him play was against some powerhouse like Montreal or Boston so his plus/minus is even more incredible. He was the player every other team wanted to be when they grew up, and he made everyone on his team better. If I had to pick one guy for my franchise it would definitely be him (although Gretzky is a close second).