“Go out and have fun, and we’ll see what happens.”
That was the game plan Doug Orr, who had been a hockey prospect himself before joining the Royal Canadian Navy, gave his young son, Bobby, when he was playing minor hockey in Ontario in the 1950s.
And that’s the simple message Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, now 64, wishes to see passed on the youth playing the game today.
Orr appeared on Hockey Central at Noon on Thursday to speak about the importance of minor hockey and the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey Program, for which he has been an ambassador for a dozen years.
This season, as last, the program will hand out thousands of hockey helmets, free of charge, to five-year-old Canadians who are just getting into the organized game.
“It’s very simple. We believe that every child, male or female, that wants to take part in our great game should be able to play in a safe environment,” Orr told Sportsnet.ca is a separate interview. “We’re not just talking about the elite traveling teams. We’re talking about everybody. We’ve been doing this program now for 12 years, with Cassie Campbell and Mike Bossy through Chevrolet, to create a safe and fun environment. We started looking at each other and saying, ‘This isn’t just for the kids; it’s for Mom and Dad, coaches, officials, those presidents that run the leagues – this message is for everybody.’
“Every first-year player, five-year-old kid who plays hockey in Canada, has a chance to get a free helmet. Last year we gave out over 15,000 helmets through Bauer and Chevrolet – all free. This year we’re pretty confident that we’ll go past what we did last year.”
Watch Bobby Orr’s complete interview on Thursday’s HC @ Noon above — in which he talks about minor hockey, the NHL lockout, and why Paul Henderson needs to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Orr says he’s in the process of writing a book about minor hockey, due in 2013, so he’s been spending a lot of time recently reminiscing about his formative years on the ice and how they were different from what some of today’s prodigies are going through.
“My fondest memories are playing minor league hockey with my buddies,” Orr said. He notes the weighty pressures being placed upon teenagers who might have a shot at making it today. “I never had any pressure from my parents; we didn’t have unruly coaches. We had a wonderful time. We’re trying to get the message out there that the parents, coaches, presidents of the leagues need to work together to make it a great experience for every kid.”
Those interested in how to receive a free helmet can log on to safeandfunhockey.ca. Orr says all children born in 2007and registered in a Canadian minor hockey league can get one.