6.10.2013

Orr is Still a Bruin

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You want to know about a real Boston sports curse? Try going through life as a member of the Bruins and being constantly reminded of those legendary Stanley Cup-winning teams from the early 1970s.

But here's some good news for the 2010-11 Bruins as they prepare for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the Garden: The Greatest Player Who Ever Lived is in their corner.

While Bobby Orr is too respectful of the current Bruins to compare them with those great teams of yesteryear, he has found a way to connect the new with the old that offends nobody.

'All they should think about is the feeling of being a part of the best team in the world,' said Orr, who will be at the Garden tonight. 'That's what they're trying to achieve. That's what we were trying to achieve. Being the best.'

Along with his otherworldly hockey skills, this is the kind of brilliant diplomacy that separates Bobby Orr from the rest of the pack. The rest of us ­- fans, media - can write odes and sing songs about the Big, Bad Bruins, but Orr - No. 4 - speaks with reverence about the new Bruins.

'I don't compare the teams,' he said. 'This is their time. We had ours, and this is theirs. I'm very impressed with what this team has done. I'm very impressed with how they put the pieces together. They have a little mix of everything, from trades to the draft.'

That's the one area Orr is willing to make a comparison - roster makeup.

'The turning point to our team was the trade with Chicago,' said Orr, referring to the one-sided deal that brought Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge from Chicago to the Bruins in exchange for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte. 'The mix came together with the veterans and the young players. That's what I see on this team.

'I like what they've done. They work hard . . . but everyone is going to have to do something if they're going to win. I like them. I hope no one writes this team off, especially after all they went through this year. They beat Montreal, and then they overcame all that happened with Philadelphia the year before, and then they go to seven games with Tampa and they win. There's a lot going on with this team.'

This respect for the new Bruins is reminiscent of Ted Williams, who had nothing but praise for Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Tony Gwynn and Nomar Garciaparra.

And it was genuine, as it is with Orr.

'I have a soft spot for the Bruins,' he said. 'And I'm excited, just like any Boston Bruins fan would be. I'm looking forward to Games 3 and 4. I still think it's going to be a long series. I think they're pretty evenly matched.'

Orr didn't have to look very far to learn this area has gone hockey crazy.

'My golfing buddies, they're big Red Sox fans,' he said. 'But now they're coming out, they're wearing Bruins T-shirts, they're wearing Bruins caps.'

Though there isn't much shared sports history between the Bruins and Canucks, old-time sports fans in Vancouver have fond memories of the 1970-71 season - especially a Feb. 16, 1971 game at the old Pacific Coliseum between the expansion Canucks and the defending Stanley Cup-champion Bruins. The Canucks, having already lost three times that season to the Bruins, stormed back that night with a 5-4 home-ice victory against Orr & Co.

'I remember being out there and losing that game,' Orr said. 'An expansion team, and all the rest. Believe me, I remember. It was an exciting evening for Vancouver fans.

'But it was more than that. The Bruins were a very popular team in Canada and they had fans in Vancouver. The Bruins were an Original Six, and many times those new teams would beat an Original Six team, and that would be pretty exciting for their fans.'

Looking back to Game 1 of this year's Cup finals, a 1-0 Vancouver victory, Orr was asked about the dustup between Patrice Bergeron and Vancouver's Alex Burrows, in which Burrows either did or did not bite Bergeron's finger.

Did Orr ever get bitten? Did Orr ever bite?

'I don't remember ever being bitten, or biting anyone,' he said.

Orr's favorite game from this postseason is Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. The game was hard-fought, fast and emotional, yet not a single penalty was called. The B's came out of it with a 1-0 victory. Though Orr and his crew got into many a scrape back in the day - not for nothing were they called the Big, Bad Bruins - he considers the Tampa Bay finale 'a perfect game.'

Orr is correct when he says of the 2010-11 Bruins, 'This is their time.'

But it is, in a way, his time too. Let's not forget that there's a statue outside the Garden commemorating Orr's game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup finals. It's impossible to play for the current Bruins and not be familiar with that goal and the man who scored it.

So, yes, absolutely, Bobby Orr has to be in the house tonight. Could anybody imagine a Stanley Cup final on Causeway Street without him?

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