Excerpt: Bobby Orr leads the Bruins to the Stanley Cup
Reprinted from ORR: My Story, by Bobby Orr, published by arrangement with G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2013 by Robert Orr.
After falling to the Canadiens in six games in the semifinals of the playoffs in the spring of 1969, we were disappointed yet determined -- and most of us couldn't wait to get to camp the next year and prepare to do something that hadn't happened in Boston in a very long time.
We knew we could compete with any team in the NHL. We had depth in the lineup for goal scoring, were solid back of the blue line, and had a goaltending tandem in Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston that was second to none. From the very beginning of the 1969-70 season, all of us felt we had a great chance to win our first Cup together.
The regular season that year, just like the year before, showed us we could play some pretty good hockey and sustain that level of performance over the course of an entire season. Another six guys would score 20 goals or more and we had 99 points as a team, almost the same statistics as the year before. But something was different. Somehow the regular season mattered a little less to us, even as we took the game a little more seriously. The season was a long warm-up for us, getting us ready for the playoffs. We wanted the regular season over with.
Somehow, the Canadiens, who had stood in our way the previous two seasons, didn't even make the playoffs. Neither did the Maple Leafs. We started with the Rangers in the first round and they pushed us to six games. We won the first two in Boston, lost two on the road, then had to fight hard to take game five back at home. New York threw everything at us, but we managed to take game six at Madison Square Garden to end the series.
Meanwhile, Chicago had swept Detroit and were rested and waiting for us. We knew the series wouldn't be easy. The Black Hawks had finished first overall in the league, and they had Bobby Hull in their lineup. They also had Phil Esposito's rookie brother, Tony, in net, and he seemed at least as good at stopping pucks as Phil was at shoveling them in. Tony had just set a record for shutouts in a season. Also, we were starting the series on the road, and the Hawks were every bit as hard to beat at Chicago Stadium as we were at the Boston Garden. But we won those road games, and once we were back in our barn, there was no way we were going to ease up. Chicago came at us, but the lessons and the discipline we had learned at the hands of the Canadiens probably made the difference. Even when the Hawks got up on us a couple of times, we knew what it was going to take to win. And we did.
A four-game sweep of the Black Hawks landed us in the final. Our opponent was the St. Louis Blues. They were making their third straight appearance in the finals, so it was a veteran group of players with a lot of playoff experience under their belt. The Blues had emerged in a short time as the class of the expansion teams, and we knew this would not be an easy series. You need to remember something here that is very important when it comes to sports and championship-caliber teams. We had been through two very successful regular seasons in a row, and all of us in that room knew we were a pretty good team. But that meant nothing. As long as we thought that being good was enough to win, we weren't going to cut it. You don't win by being good. You win with hard work and sacrifice. Without that, skill is just potential.
Now, our first Stanley Cup was sitting there, within our grasp, just four victories away. We won the first two games of the series on the road, and we took game three back in Boston. That set up a very dramatic game four. What we had in front of us that day, as we prepared for the game that afternoon, was an opportunity to achieve something we had all been dreaming of for years. Let me share how that game developed from where I was sitting on May 10, 1970.
The Boston Garden was packed to the rafters, and everyone had come to the rink anticipating the end of a long wait for the Cup. The Garden was a fantastic old rink, and the fans in Boston had stuck with us even when we were finishing last in the league. By the time we were deep in the playoffs, that crowd kept us going. So, on a hot spring day, in game four, with the Cup waiting for us, the mood was nothing short of incredible.
The last time a Bruins team had accomplished the task was back in the 1940-41 season, so it had been almost thirty years since Boston had last won it all. The drought had persisted long enough—at least in the eyes of the Bruins faithful. As for the players, we wanted it done, right then and there. The chance to sweep on home ice was within our grasp. Of course, people who have played the game, especially at higher levels, will tell you the last game in a series is always the hardest to win. Refusing to lose the series can be as much of an inspiration as wanting to win it. And players hate being swept even more than they hate losing—it leaves a particularly nasty taste in your mouth. We had experienced that taste just a couple of seasons before, so we understood how it felt. They were a proud team, with a great leader in Scotty Bowman, and we all knew that taking the Blues out that night was no foregone conclusion. We felt we were in for their best game of the series.
Just as we'd expected, the Blues came out and gave us everything they had. We got on the board first with Rick Smith, a defenseman not normally known as a goal scorer, giving us the lead right off the bat. But Red Berenson tied it up with under a minute to go in the first. As the second period began, Gary Sabourin (like me, a native of Parry Sound, Ont.) gave them a 2-1 lead fairly quickly, but Espo tied it again as the period was winding down. It stood 2-2 going into the third, and the already incredible tension was mounting. They weren't going to roll over for us.
We barely had time to sit down on our bench to start the third when, 19 seconds in, Larry Keenan gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead and the place suddenly got a little bit quiet. It was fitting that, around the 13-minute mark, the old veteran Johnny Bucyk, the first roomie I'd ever had with the Bruins, scored the goal that tied it up. Rick Smith had an assist on that goal, his second point of the night, and it just goes to show how different players at different times can step up and contribute. It was a see-saw battle to end the period, but neither team could finish the job.
It was off to overtime, which is the way every kid wants to win the Cup. No one needed a speech in the dressing room to get motivated to go back out there. Not much was said. At least I never heard much. I suppose nothing really needed to be said. We all knew what was at stake. The deal now was just to go out, each man do his job, and get this over with. Sudden death.
I hadn't scored a goal in the series up to that point. That fact didn't particularly register with me at the time, because in the grand scheme of things it just didn't matter. I wasn't there to improve my stats. I was there to help the Bruins win. I couldn't have cared less who scored the final goal, so long as the player was wearing a black-and-gold uniform.
Harry Sinden decided to start Derek Sanderson's line, consisting of Turk, Wayne Carleton, and Ed Westfall, with Don Awrey and me on defense. Perhaps Harry's decision to go with Sanderson's line and keep the very potent line of Espo, Cashman, and Hodge on the bench might have surprised some people in the stands, or even on the bench, but it made sense to me. Derek and Eddie were both solid two-way players and that was our best defensive line. I'm sure that Harry just wanted to ensure that the Blues wouldn't get one early in the overtime period. He wanted to get that first shift out of the way. He knew there would be nerves.
As play began to start the overtime, the puck found its way into the St. Louis end, and our forwards were on it in a hurry. We had some great pressure on them, and as the play along the left boards developed, Derek eventually picked up a loose puck as the Blues were starting to head out of the zone up their right side. Turk stepped toward the net and let loose a shot that missed the target, going around the boards toward the other corner and heading up in my direction. Remember, even though I was a left-handed shot, I had always played the right point, so I had to stop pucks along the boards on the backhand.
Instinctively, I pinched down. I really can't say why I held the zone, but for whatever reason I gambled a bit. The St. Louis forward closest to me as the puck came around was number 18, Larry Keenan, who had scored earlier in the game. He got to the puck about the same time I did, and I'm sure Larry had visions of scoring his second of the game as he extended his stick and tried to poke it around me off the boards. If he had been able to sneak it by me, they would have had a two-on-one, or three-on-one, in the other direction, and I would have been caught.
But I managed to get my stick on the puck, and immediately I slid it toward Derek. By that time, Turk had followed his shot in behind the net and was now standing just below the goal line near the post, a quick pass away. I did what came naturally. Once I chipped the puck in Derek's direction, I went hard to the net. Derek fed it back to me immediately, Glenn Hall's legs opened up in the crease, and bingo, the puck was in the back of the net. I'd like to say I checked first and picked my spot on Glenn, but the truth is it was simply a bang-bang, give-and-go play. I just tried to get a shot on net.
And while I was focused on that, Blues defenseman Noel Picard got his stick on me to slow me down. But he tripped me an instant too late. He brought me down, but not before I'd spent that moment airborne. And as soon as I fell back to the ice, Sanderson jumped on me, and the celebrations began. I was mobbed by my teammates, who poured over the boards. Some of the Boston fans were right behind them. Then, there I was, following Bucyk around the ice, with him hoisting the Cup over his head. Growing up, lying in bed at night, that was something I had dreamed about.
No words will ever do justice to the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup. So many things come together in that moment. There is, of course, the pure joy of getting something you have wanted for as long as you can remember. Many of the games of shinny I used to play as a boy on Georgian Bay featured a Cup-winning overtime goal. To actually do what you have dreamed of a thousand times since you were a kid is a feeling like nothing else. But there is more to it than that. Part of the exhilaration is not just getting what you've wanted your whole life, but getting it after years of hard work, and after the gut-wrenching challenge of a playoff run. It wouldn't have felt nearly the same having what we wanted just handed to us. We'd achieved what we wanted with the best hockey players in the world -- tough, skilled athletes -- trying to stop us at every turn. There wasn't a guy on that team -- probably either team -- who wasn't banged up after fighting, game after game, for every inch of ice. When you win, all those bruises and stitches just make the thrill of accomplishment that much more powerful.
Still, there was more to the feeling of victory than that. My dad was there at the Garden that night, and my thoughts went to him right away. And it happened to be Mother's Day (someone had hung a banner saying, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY MRS. ORR, behind the net). My thoughts were with her as well. When you win something as big as a Stanley Cup, you can't help but think about all the people who played a part in getting you there. It is a reminder that you really can't take all the credit.
But that doesn't make it less thrilling. Just the opposite. It makes it all feel right. I have won a few trophies over the years, and I never really liked individual honors, because they seem to miss the point. No one guy can accept the praise for the statistics he puts up, because it takes all kinds of unacknowledged help to get there. All the coaches in minor hockey and in Oshawa. All the friends and volunteers, teachers and billets. The neighbors who lent a hand at some point, and the teammates' parents who drove me to the rink. There is really no such thing as individual accomplishment. A team victory means much, much more. I scored only one goal in that series, so there is no way anyone can say I won the series with that goal. I was just helping out at that point. A team gets very close over the course of a few campaigns like that, and I would say that Bruins team was especially close. As an example, I believe we may have been the first team to vote a full share of playoff bonus money to both our trainers. A huge part of the thrill of winning the Cup is knowing that the guys you have fought alongside are also winning it.
In a similar way, it is a real joy to win it for the fans. People talk about sports as though it is just entertainment, but it's more than that. Our fans cared about what happened. They had a stake in the outcome of that season in a way no one does when they go to a movie. We knew that the Bruins meant a lot to them, and that meant a lot to us.
For many years after that goal had been scored, whenever I found myself in the company of Glenn Hall, someone would always bring up the topic of "The Goal" or produce a copy of the photo to be signed. Poor Glenn must have got sick of that pretty quickly, but he took it in good humor. I can remember at one event, he looked over at me and, shaking his head in mock disgust, he asked, "Bobby, is that the only goal you ever scored in the NHL?"