In the "word/number" instant recognition game, No. 4 in Boston means only one thing to sports fans: Bobby Orr. They have argued, and will continue to argue, that he was the greatest hockey player -- evah!!!
Bobby Orr, who redefined the position of defenseman, certainly delivered for the Bruins, here scoring the 1970 Stanley Cup finals winning goal in overtime against St. Louis.
There's certainly room for debate on that one, but what isn't debatable is Orr's influence on the game. Simply, he was a transformative figure who revolutionized the sport, playing his position of defense with unparalleled excellence while also becoming one of the game's most explosive offensive threats.
Orr burst onto the Boston scene in 1966 at the age of 18. The Bruins had not won a Stanley Cup in 25 years and had not even made the playoffs in the previous seven. They were bad that first year, although Orr lived up to his billing by getting the rookie of the year award. The Bruins made the playoffs for the remaining time Orr spent in Boston, a far-too-short 10 seasons marked by knee woes.
For a sports parallel, think of Sandy Koufax, the premier pitcher of his time who retired at the age of 30 due to arm trouble. Orr's career basically ended when he was 27. (The phrase "such a waste" comes to mind.) He slogged along for another four years, but after a dozen operations on his left knee, he was toast. One can only surmise what he would have been able to do had there been such a thing as arthroscopic surgery in his day.
When healthy, there was no one like Orr. Ken Dryden, the great Montreal goalie, likened a solo Orr rush to a five-man stampede. Orr won eight straight Norris Trophies, awarded to the league's best defenseman. He was a two-time scoring champion, unthinkable for a defenseman before he arrived on the scene. He won three straight league MVP awards. And he was the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the two years Boston won the whole thing, 1970 and 1972. He scored the clinching goal in the Cup-winning game in both of those seasons.
Orr's last great season was 1974-75. He won his second scoring title with 135 points, including an astonishing 46 goals. But he underwent surgery before the 1975-76 season and was limited to 10 games. (He then became a free agent and signed with Chicago, where he spent three injury-ravaged seasons before retiring, appearing in just 26 games.)
Orr's final triumph came during the Canada Cup series in 1976, when he was named the most valuable player. He had missed the 1972 Summit Series due to injuries.
The Hockey Hall of Fame waived its customary three-year waiting period for Orr and in 1979 ushered him in at the age of 31; he is the youngest enshrinee in the sport's history.
2011 Boston Hall of Fame classmates: Larry Bird | Ted Williams | Bill Russell | Red Auerbach