Amid celebrations for ’70 Cup title anniversary, an always humble Bobby Orr thanks ‘heroes’ of today

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

There isn’t a whole lot that hasn’t already been said about Bobby Orr. 

To many, the fleet-footed defenseman is the greatest to ever lace up the skates.

To all, he remains as a transformative presence within the game of hockey, responsible for taking entrenched perception about blueliners and — much as he did to opposing skaters on the rush — leaving them in the dust.

For those lucky enough to see No. 4 take to the ice at the Garden ice, Orr was far more than just a franchise cornerstone or cult hero. A small pool of individuals can ever stake a claim as being the top player in their respected sport, but only a chosen few can take the fabric of a game and rewrite what was possible as soon as the puck was dropped.

For the generations that followed, the Bruins' greatest player almost achieved mythic status. We all heard the same tales from our parents, grandparents, coaches and others — all attempting to turn back to the page to boast of Orr's exploits.

No one was faster. No one was smarter. No one was quite like No. 4.

Before the days of Youtube and NHL Network, all my generation had as a testament to Orr's greatness were these stories of yesteryear.

Well, that, and a photo of a young man, frozen in time, taking flight on May 10, 1970 — a snapshot plastered over every rink, parlor and watering hole from Presque Isle to Providence.

But for Robert Gordon Orr, all of the accolades and achievements piled up over the years — two Cup titles, three Hart Trophies, eight Norris Trophies — haven't changed the humble man from from Parry Sound, Ontario who still views himself as "part of the puzzle" on two championship clubs. 

"I really appreciate the comments from the guys," Orr said Wednesday when asked about the praise he regularly receives. "I was one of the lucky ones. I got to play a great game. Played with some wonderful people throughout my career. And I just feel like a lucky guy. I was playing a game, I was being paid to play a game and that's a pretty good position to be in. But I don't think a lot about being the greatest or anything like that. That's really isn't my thing.”

For an individual whose likeness is emblazoned in bronze just steps outside of the Bruins' barn on Causeway Street, Orr is far more willing to delve into tales of his teammates, family and friends — rather than harp on the personal achievements that warranted the creation of such a display.

[caption id="attachment_566084" align="alignnone" width="1600"] (Photo by Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)[/caption]

As such, on an afternoon in which Orr retold tales of the 1970 Bruins, leading up to the 50th anniversary of his Cup-clinching goal this Sunday, the Hall of Famer took the time to single out the heroes of today — namely, the healthcare workers on the frontlines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're celebrating a sporting event and that's great," Orr said. "But with everything that's going on — I think it's a good time to celebrate and thank all the frontline workers, first responders, the different organizations that assist in healthcare, the healthcare providers. I think it's a great time to celebrate them and to thank them for the sacrifices they've made.

"These people go to work every day, making huge sacrifices, they're saving lives, comforting so many people. For me, I played a game and they call us heroes? I don't think so. It's not a game to these healthcare workers. These frontliners. It's real life. And I think we do owe them so much." 

Orr, who has remained down in Florida during the ongoing pandemic, has taken an active role in trying to support these frontline workers. As part of an ongoing raffle run by the Boston Bruins Foundation that will benefit frontline workers during the COVID-19 crisis, the Bruins are offering up a one-of-a-kind replica of Orr's statue to the winner. Orr will also place a phone call to someone of the winner's choosing for Mother's Day — and pledged to present the replica statue in person to the winner when the dangers associated with the coronavirus outbreak have ceased.

Such is only the latest chapter in a long line of good deeds that Orr has performed over the years — many of which were carried out without little to no fanfare —  and most documented against Orr's wishes.

For Orr, supporting those in need — whether it be friends, family, or oftentimes complete strangers — was a hallmark of a childhood spent just off the shores of Lake Huron. And he hasn't wavered from such actions since.

Adopting such a mindset — or the greater challenge in following through on such selfless intentions — is an action often taken by far too few these days.

Granted, there are few people quite like Robert Gordon Orr.

"(My parents) taught us the importance of being respectful and working hard, and that's where it started," Orr said. "And it just continued after I left home. My mother was a very special person. She had two jobs, my father had two or three jobs — so they were always hard-working. My mother worked in a coffee shop. One day, someone went in and said, 'How's your son doing?' And she says, 'Which one? I have three.' And that's how my mother was. So she was very good to everyone. All the kids in the family tried to treat everyone equally and so on and so forth.

"And then when I came to the Bruins, a lot was written about a rookie coming in. But guys like Eddie Johnston and Chief (Johnny Bucyk) and others took me under their wings. ... They treated me so well, looked after me, led down the right path. Without the kind of support I had from my family and the guys and the team when I when I came to Boston, I don't believe I would have had the success I had.

"It's very, very important to have that support. I've always had wonderful friends who were supportive after retiring — it was a very difficult time. When they take your skates from you, it's no fun. And I had wonderful friends who helped me through that period. And things have turned out very well for me after the game. But good home life, parents, teammates, good friends. That's what we need. And if you have that, you're pretty lucky."