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.
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.
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
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
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.