BRIGHTON, Mass. -- For many seasoned, diehard Bruins fans, it probably doesn’t seem like it’s been exactly 50 years since No. 4, Bobby Orr, donned the Black and Gold sweater for the first time in his NHL career. But that’s exactly what the date of Oct. 19, 1966 represents in the NHL world, and more specifically for a Bruins organization that gleefully hasn’t been the same since the NHL’s Greatest Of All Time (GOAT, for short) started patrolling the blue line.
The first game was a modest performance for Orr’s standards with a single assist, but the Bruins D-man revolutionized the game over the next decade with incredibly dominant offensive seasons while persevering through debilitating knee injuries. Orr made an entire puck-loving nation fall in love with his game en route to becoming Canadian hockey royalty, and serving an idol to young players like Claude Julien working their way up the puck food chain.
“I’ve been very open about this: as a young kid, he was my idol. I played defense and when I watched him play, I didn’t come close to playing like him, I just loved watching him play. I still remember interviews with him as a kid where he was shy as could be, and today he’s a much different person,” said Julien, with a big smile on his face. “He was a good hockey player whose career ended way too early, but for the short amount of time he played he certainly left his imprint on the game. There’s no doubt he’s a legend, and what I liked about Bobby is that he stayed in the game.
“He’s a great person and he’s fun to be around, and fun to talk to. He’s a quality individual that not only excelled on the ice, but also excelled off the ice. You’re a kid and he’s your idol, and then you turn around and he’s your friend. You’re pretty lucky to have that happen to you because it doesn’t happen to too many people.”
He also spawned an entire generation of hockey-loving sports fans in Boston when his Bruins won the Cup in 1970 and 1972, and were veritable rock stars off the ice. So it’s no surprise Orr will be the star of the show at the home opener on Thursday night when the B’s kick things off on Causeway Street. The Bruins’ No. 1 hockey-playing son will drop the ceremonial first puck prior to the game at TD Garden between the Devils and Bruins, and his Original Six organization will commemorate his 50th anniversary of first suiting up for the Black and Gold five decades ago.
It’s something that longtime Bruins players will be looking forward to even if they weren’t old enough to have witnessed No. 4 do his thing for the Black and Gold, and instead have viewed Orr’s greatness through the prism of grainy black-and-white footage.
“Bobby Orr…it’s really self-explanatory what he means to this city and this organization,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “To have him still around and have him still saying hello sometimes before the games, it really means a lot. Fifty years? Wow, it’s been that long.
“I really love the man. He’s just such a great man, and obviously an unbelievable hockey player and I’m just happy to have him around to see him interact with the other players. Anything he does has such a big effect on everybody: not just the young kids, but even [the veteran players], coaches and management. He is a very special person, and I’m just happy to still have him around.”
Likewise, Patrice Bergeron has been a member of the Bruins organization the longest dating back to his rookie year during the 2003-04 NHL season. So the heart and soul leader and B’s best player has been around Orr for the last 13 years since he was a shy 18-year-old kid coming out of the Quebec Major Junior League, and knows what select, lucky company that puts him in over the years.
“He’s a legend of the game, but an even better person and role model for the younger generation. It’s amazing what he accomplished as a hockey player and what he’s done for the game of hockey,” said Bergeron. “I’m just proud to have a chance to play in the same organization that he was a part of.”
Literally everybody within the Bruins organization beams with pride at the thought Orr is the very best they’ve had to offer over the last 50 years, and that’s obvious whenever anybody begins to discuss the utter brilliance of No. 4, Bobby Orr.