Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Index


By Bobby Orr (2013, Viking-Penguin Books)

Bobby Orr recounts his life, his philosophy and his insights into the game of hockey, and of life itself.



Read August 11th to September 11th, 2014 in hardcover  
    I liked this man more and more as I read about him and what he stands for. Not only was he a great hockey player, but he seems like a terrific person. When I met him, I didn't truly understand what he meant by "just let the kids play". Now I do, and it's a true eye-opener for me.

Full spoiler review:

I met Bobby Orr back in 2011 when we won a contest for my son to practice with him at his hockey camp for a weekend. He was amazingly down to earth, and he had a clear message to all the parents present -don't expect your kids to make it to the NHL; let them have fun, and guide them, and if they make it, let it be their dream, not yours. While I agree with the concept in principle, it was difficult to understand how not training the kids to their fullest potential was the way he made it.

But that's not what he meant at all. The first thing to do is let them have fun, learn to skate, and play hockey. It is important to develop their skills properly, so surround them with good coaches. But he learned to play hockey on the lake, and there could be a couple dozen kids all playing at the same time, no adults, no referees. As he says in this book, getting through five people in a minor hockey game is easy once you've tried to get through ten opposing team members on the lake. They figured out how to do it on their own, and they were better off for it.

That's not always possible these days, but I feel better as a coach about allowing the large melees at initiation minor hockey, which is rarely above fifteen kids in a single game, anyway. The kids who are superstars and are pushed by their parents often burn out, get tired of all the pressure, and leave their parents dreams unfulfilled, anyway. The kids whose skills are developed by proper drills often end up doing better, because they are having fun all the way, and when their bodies and minds mature into the game, they can put all those skills to use.

The parts of the book that interested me most were the early parts, before he went on the road and became a superstar player. His early days, as a boy playing hockey on the lake, fishing in the summer, getting odd jobs as he got older, really interested me. His supporting parents, and the role they played in his early life, was incredibly touching. The sense of rock-solid stability, honor, and most of all respect were deeply engrained in him.

As he got older, hockey obviously took over his life. He keeps those chapters interesting by telling anecdotes about things he and his teammates did, like hitchhiking home after their coach explicitly told them not to, and getting caught in the process.

His time with the Bruins was also interesting, though I found it to be less so than the early chapters. He describes a team that was just being rebuilt, and he got to help rebuild it, winning two Stanley Cups in the process. I liked the way he described overconfidence, something his team learned the hard way more than once.

Then he talks about two people who had a major influence in his life. One was Don Cherry, who -love him or hate him- knows an incredible amount about hockey and has influenced it greatly. This is man Orr is obviously very fond of, and his bias shows. I'm sure Cherry deserves it, though I don't see all of what he describes as positive attributes, and that only shows how different people have different opinions. The other person is Alan Eagleson, who was also very influential, yet managed to betray many people who depended on him, filling his own pockets rather than theirs. It is a very somber lesson to people starting out in life, in any career, today. This is the only negative part of the book, the only time he describes anybody doing anything bad. The other stuff that other people did is not reported here, but can probably be found all over the internet.

I also don't agree with all of Orr's thoughts about the state of the game today, and I some points I wasn't even aware of. But regardless of my thoughts on the subjects, he makes very good cases for all of it. As somebody who has been through it all, he knows a heck of a lot more about the game, inside and out, than I do. He makes it all very interesting.

He says in the introduction that he won't talk about his wife, who was there by his side through it all. And he doesn't. I understand his attitude, but I think that was a mistake. His wife and kids may not have the public eye like he did, but it would have been nice to see some aspect of his family life, how they supported him, how they undoubtedly strengthened him as he grew and their relationship grew. He mentions being missing for most of his kids' childhood, but I would have liked more. I think he missed out an important topic, even if he had only included a few pages about them.

In all, though, this was a very interesting look at a very interesting and humble man. I liked him a lot when I met him, and I liked him more and more as I read through this book.

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