When we speak of the greats of ice hockey, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau enter into the conversation. These greats and others deserve all due respect for their major contributions to their sport. But one stands above the rest.
Ice hockey never saw a better, more complete player than Bobby Orr. Nobody played the game like him. In a 12-year NHL career that began in 1966, he revolutionized the role of the defenseman before he retired in 1978 at 30.
Orr combined speed, strength, skill and hockey savvy at both ends of the ice. He showed a knack for both getting in the way of slap shots at one end and blasting them at the other. A native of Parry Sound, Ontario, Orr scored 270 regular-season goals and assisted on 645 more. He added 26 goals and 66 assists in eight postseason runs and was a two-time Stanley Cup winner for the Boston Bruins.
Defensively, Orr’s penalty-killing abilities set a standard that remains to this day. Besides his deft puck-handling and precise passing, Orr, who famously wore number 4, had a presence that made any team he played for better the moment he stepped on the ice. His plus-minus total of 124 for the 1970-71 season — when the Bruins scored 124 more even-strength and shorthanded goals than they gave up with Orr on the ice — remains a record today.
Ken Dryden, Hall of Fame goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, summed it up best.
"When he began to move ... the sensation was unique: All the Canadiens began backpedaling in a small panic, like beachgoers sighting a coming monster wave," Dryden once said. "He brought others with him. He wanted them involved. That's what made him so different. It felt like a five-player stampede moving toward you — and at his pace. He pushed his teammates because you're playing with the best player in the league and he's giving you the puck and you just can't mess up. You had to be better than you had ever been."
Still not convinced Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player of all time? Here are 21 reasons why Orr is hockey's GOAT.