Ten minutes with Bobby Orr is not enough.
Do you rehash some of those treat-opponents-like-pylons rushes that begin at the crease you must clear and end at the net you want to fill?
Do you gain insight into those indelible Boston victories, or ask about the battered knees that hobbled the probability of so many more?
How quickly do you switch the topic from his mission of the day, be it a pain-relief cream or a minor hockey initiative, to talk puck?
Or do you focus on his role in the National Hockey League today and the representation he’s been providing for current players since 1996?
The Bobby Orr Group, a player agency of which he is the majority owner, wields one of the largest client lists in the National Hockey League. Some of Orr’s players, such as Jason Spezza (Swiss A) and Tomas Plekanec (Czech Extraliga), have joined European circuits; others, such as Taylor Hall, Cam Ward and all three Staals, have stayed put.
The NHL’s first million-dollar man talks offer sheets, signing bonuses, media pressures, the exodus to Europe, and what rule changes he’d like to see when the NHL gets back to business of playing hockey.
Spoiler alert: He’s not opposed to refs swallowing their whistles and allowing a little more clutching and grabbing.
Once a defenceman, always a defenceman.
On the NHL addressing its diving problem:
“I’m sure everyone embellished here and there. I think there’s always been a little bit of embellishment, but there’s some other rules I’d worry about before (focusing on that). It’s easy to see an embellishment. There’s some other rules I’d worry about before embellishment.”
On those other rules that should be addressed:
“I knew I shouldn’t have said that (laughs). I agree with interference, that if I can catch up and make it a two-on-one and you’re holding me back, that a call (that should be made). But there are some occasions… we can’t be a special-teams game. I think the (referees) are a lot better now than they were, but it was power play, power play, power play for it felt like a lot of games, and I don’t think that’s right. I think I should be able to help my defence partner by at least getting in someone’s way — too many guys are being run — but I can’t do that.
“We should be letting our goalies go a little bit. There’s not many that really handle the puck that well, and now we’ve got the trapezoid. If they can get that puck, they can make it better and safer for some of the players.”
On whether a wandering goalie should be fair game:
“I don’t think we can start running goalies. If you say you can bump them, next thing they’re running them. But they’ve got to determine if he is getting in the way and it appears he’s trying to block you out, and you happen to bump into him. You can say, ‘Hey, he put himself in that position.’ I don’t think because you’ve hit him, if you haven’t gone out of your way to hit him, you should (be penalized). But if he goes out of his way to block you or help his teammate, that shouldn’t be allowed either. So if you touch him (and he’s blocking you), I don’t think a penalty should be called.”
On whether he would go play in Europe if he was locked out:
“That’s a personal thing. Since this started, I’ve thought, ‘What would I have done?’ I’m not sure I would have gone. It’s easier for me to sit here and say that. I don’t think I would’ve gone.
“For anyone who thinks the players are going over there making a lot of money? They’re thoroughbreds. They want to play. They’re not making a helluva lot of money over there. They’re there to play. In the KHL they make more, but in these other leagues, they’re not making much. The insurance alone – the cost to insure their contracts – is unbelievable. They want to be in game shape for when this ends, and I’m one who thinks it’s going to end sooner rather than later. They want to be ready to go, and the (NHL) can have those players back pretty fast.”
On signing offer sheets:
“It’s in the rules! It’s there. It’s allowed. If it’s there, why not? It doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, it’s not the player’s fault. It’s not the player’s fault about these big upfront payments. That’s what the team has offered. It’s allowable. You can’t blame the player; if a team doesn’t want to do it, don’t offer it.”
On general managers’ “unwritten rule” to avoid offer sheets, alluded to by Detroit Red Wings VP Jim Devellano in his controversial interview:
“You’ll have to talk to the GMs (laughs). I’m on the other side. There’s a code? That’s illegal.”
On signing, on Aug. 26, 1971, the NHL’s first million-dollar deal: a five-year contract with the Boston Bruins that paid him $200,000 per season:
“You know what I remember most about that? I think I was making more than Gordie Howe, which is awful. Nobody should be making more than Gordie Howe. (Note: The Red Wings paid Howe $100,000 in 1970-71, his last season with Detroit.) Money is always important; we wanted to make money. But I wanted to play. I didn’t think, ‘Oh, great, I’m making a million dollars at this point.’ No. I wanted to get back on the ice and play. Believe me, I wanted to play.”
On the media scrutiny in the 1970s:
“Everything’s so different today with the coverage. I mean, look at Toronto. I won’t even mention all the stations, yours and others, the newspapers, the magazines, the radio stations… the coverage today is so much greater than when I was coming up. I could come up and just sneak into the NHL. There was coverage when I came up, but not like today. It’s unbelievable. The players have to understand, you just can’t hide. Whatever you do, whatever you say, wherever you go, it’s covered. You can’t hide, and that’s the way you gotta behave. And if you don’t, you gonna get in trouble.”
On Number 4’s top four career highlights:
“Growing up in Canada, any young kid’s dream is to play in the NHL and be on a Stanley Cup team: ’70 and 72 are certainly highlights. And ’76 the Canada Cup (victory). And being part of the opening ceremonies in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics was unbelievable. So I think those four events.”