The game of hockey is evolving and no position has evolved more in the last five years than that of the defense man. In recent years a typical NHL defense man was 6 foot 2 inches 215 to 225 pounds with a wing span of 7 to 8 feet. Skating ability was average at best, played with a mean streak and had average puck moving skills. Now, scouts are looking for a player who is 5 foot 10 inches to 6 is six foot one with above average skating, puck moving skills, and decision making skills. The NHL had one of these players. He was a 53 year glimpse into the future much like Star Trek was. Captain Kirk had his Communicator, which is today’s cell phone and the NHL had Bobby Orr.
Bobby Orr entered the NHL in 1966. Orr was the best the skater in the league from the time he entered until he left in 1976, when he was basically playing on one leg. He had three speeds starting with fast and ending with see you later. Today they speak of a puck possession game, when Orr played it was his puck and you touched it when he was done with it. As an 18 year old he was challenged by a lot of veterans and fought all comers. As a 19 year old there were not many challengers. Today he is still the standard that all Defenseman are measured by 53 years later. The only other athlete that is measured like that is Jack Nicklaus. Nice company to be in.
Bobby Orr was 6 feet tall and weighed 195 pounds. His style of play ultimately caused an early demise to his career. The NHL at that time was quite barbaric to say the least. If the Flyers of the early 1970’s played in today’s NHL they would have a permanent seat in the Player Safety Office. It was a Gong Show on ice. Orr’s best hockey in my opinion was played in the 1976 Canada Cup. He and Denis Potvin lead the team in scoring and he dominated play in the seven games that were played. Most of that 22 man roster is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and to man they said he was the best player in the tournament and were in awe as he played on one leg. Every young player today should go back and watch film of him play. He was ahead of his time by 53 years. BTW he did it with wooden sticks, leather skates, and blades that were tubular in design. If he was using today’s equipment no telling how dominant he could have been, but it sure would be fun to watch. There are many good defensemen, who play the game today, but honestly they could not carry his equipment bag into the rink. Like Nicklaus, who is called Mr. by today’s tour players as a sign of respect, the same should apply to Orr as he is in the same class.
So, just like Star Trek gave us our first look at the cell phone in September of 1966 the hockey world got its first look at today’s prototypical defenseman in October of that same year.
Both changed their respective worlds.