With nearly every sports organization on the planet on pause at the moment as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel it’s an opportune time to reminisce about some special moments in sports history.
On this day in 1970, Bobby Orr flew through the air after scoring one of the most famous goals in NHL history.
The overtime winner gave the Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup win in 29 years, but the goal lives on in hockey history thanks to a sharp-eyed Boston photographer and some good luck.
The Bruins were up 3–0 in their series with the St. Louis Blues, but the score in Game 4 was tied 3–3 after regulation. Orr, who had yet to score in the series, needed only 40 seconds of overtime to remedy that. After dishing the puck to forward Derek Sanderson behind the net, Orr cut to the middle, collected a return pass from Sanderson and beat Blues goalie Glenn Hall with a quick shot.
CBS Sports broadcaster Dan Kelly is the voice behind the famous call: “Orr … behind the net to Sanderson … to Orr…. Bobby Orr… scores… and the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup!”
Orr recounted the blow by blow of the crucial goal in his 2013 autobiography.
“Once I chipped the puck in Derek’s direction, I went hard to the net,” Orr wrote. “Derek fed it back to me immediately, Glenn Hall’s legs opened up in the crease, and bingo, the puck was in the back of the net.”
“For (Orr) to get that goal, that’s what I was happiest about. He did everything for everybody and it came to him. It was just great,” Sanderson said in a recent interview organized by the Bruins. “I’m glad he didn’t miss the pass, because there’s nobody behind him except St. Louis Blues players.”
But it’s what happened next that is forever imprinted on the memories of hockey fans. Blues defender Noel Picard’s stick got stuck in Orr’s skates as he shot the puck, sending the hockey legend flying through the air.
That moment was captured brilliantly by Ray Lussier, a photographer for the Boston Record American (now the Boston Herald). As the story goes, Lussier made the wise decision to move from one end of the ice to the other before overtime, setting up just in time to get the shot.
But the photo almost didn’t get published. According to Bruins beat writer Joe McDonald, Lussier originally submitted a different photo for the front page because it showed the puck in the net. Luckily, sports editor Sammy Cohen asked Lussier to re-submit, which is when he came back with the one that would be plastered on posters across Boston and the rest of the world.
“You could work your whole life and not get a shot like that,” retired Herald photo chief Kevin Cole told McDonald. “But in the old days, they always wanted a puck showing. If a puck wasn’t showing, they’d sometimes paint one onto the picture.
“But Sammy wasn’t worried about the puck. He saw Ray’s shot for what it was and knew what to do with it.”
The moment was immortalized forever as a statue outside TD Garden in 2010. Orr still gets asked to sign copies of Lussier’s photo to this day — as does Hall, the victim on the goal.
“I had pictures of myself taken when I stopped the puck, but they tore those things up, eh?” Hall said, with a laugh, in a 2017 interview with NHL.com. “That’s not news, the goalkeeper stopping the puck. He’s supposed to be letting it in.”
The 1969–70 Boston Bruins, known as the Big Bad Bruins, established a style of play that the franchise is still known for today. Known for being hard to play against thanks to a mix of skill and grit, the Bruins tied for the league lead in the standings with a 40-17-19 record and lost only two games over three series in the playoffs.
Orr, who turned 22 during the season, led the NHL in scoring with 120 points — including a record 87 assists — becoming the first defenceman to ever crack 100 points. He won the Hart, Art Ross, Norris and Conn Smythe trophies that season, something no one else has done in NHL history. It was his third of eight consecutive Norris Trophy wins and first of three consecutive Hart wins.
Still, Orr says personal awards never interested him. He just wanted to win the Stanley Cup, and on this day 50 years ago he was able to realize that dream.
“No words will ever do justice to the feeling of winning the Stanley Cup,” Orr wrote in his book. “To actually do what you have dreamed of a thousand times since you were a kid is a feeling like nothing else.”