fab four

Born in Parry Sound, Ontario, on a Saturday of this same date in 1948, Bobby Orr turns 72 today. He was already a phenom at 16 when Trent Frayne went to watch him play for the OHL Junior A Oshawa Generals for a 1965 feature for Maclean’s. “A crew-cut, blue-eyed, well-adjusted, polite, medium-sized boy,” is what Frayne encountered, one with the potential to “become the finest offensive defenceman since Doug Harvey.” Talking to  Lynn Patrick, Frayne heard the Boston GM say this about his eagerly awaited top prospect: “He amazes me every time I see him. The way he can anticipate what’s going to happen is sometimes uncanny. You know, sensing where the puck is going to be and moving there even before the puck does. I never saw a promising player.”

Orr was 18 when he played his NHL game for the Bruins in October of 1966 against the Detroit Red Wings. “I think it’s wonderful, but I can’t help being a little anxious,” his mother, Arva, told the Boston Globe’s Tom Fitzgerald from Parry Sound on the eve of her boy’s debut. “I guess it’ll be the same as always. I’ll be biting my nails until it’s over and we hear how it comes out on the late news.”

The tidings that reached north were good: the Bruins won, 6-2, with Orr assisting on Wayne Connelly’s second-period marker. “Although he did not score a goal,” Fitzgerald reported, “the boy with the blond whiffle did everything else expected of the best at his position. Bobby demonstrated that the critics who doubted his defensive savvy were dead wrong. He played the position like a veteran; was very tough in dislodging opponents around the net; blocked shots; and made adept moves in moving the puck from his own end.”

Interviewed in the Detroit dressing room after the game, a Red Wing elder was asked for his assessment of the rookie. “The kid’s all right,” said a 38-year-old Gordie Howe. “He’ll do, for sure.”

(Image by Gypsy Oak. Follow him on Twitter @gyspyoak)

 

shooter tutors

In the taxonomy of hockey-player poses, the Slapper rejects both the inert formality of the Tripod and the more or less uncomfortable self-consciousness of the Snow-Job in favour of the speed and contact and, well, impatience inherent in hockey. Presumably there was a puck in the frame a moment before the photographer released the shutter, but these Blues weren’t interested in letting it lie: that’s just not what pucks are for. Teammates on St. Louis’ 1970-71 roster, the shooters here are wingers (top) Gary Sabourin and Wayne Connelly.

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goaler tex

Artistic Impression: When the artist (and former NFL lineman) Tex Coulter painted the cover for the 1963 Official National Hockey Annual, he chose the dramatic scene, above, in which a Leaf attacker is denied a goal by Montreal’s netminder. If we deduce that it’s a moment drawn from the previous season then it’s easy to zero in on the Stanley Cup semi-finals of 1962-63, when the eventual Stanley Cup winners from Toronto beat out the Canadiens. If that’s what we’re saying, then that would be Jacques Plante (1) in the mask, throwing everything he has into stopping the Leafs’ John MacMillan (8) while Bob Pulford (20) cruises in for clean-up. Questions remain: what happened to the Montreal defence? Also: assuming Plante dropped his stick and only threw his blocker, is that a penalty shot?

In fact, Coulter took his inspiration from the photo below, which dates back to the 1961-62 season. Detroit’s desperate goaltender is Hank Bassen, and it’s Boston right winger Wayne Connelly he’s denying. Trailing on the play is a (guilty? grateful?) Red Wings’ defenceman, Howie Young.

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