Monday, July 6, 2009

BOOK: Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt

Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt, 284 pages

3rd Canadian book Challenge; Non-fiction Five 2009

In the early 1970s, the heyday of Bobby Orr, he was the guest speaker at a small, local sports dinner. My father in law was one of the organizers, so took his two young sons, one of which is now my husband, to pick Bobby Orr up at the airport. He thought the boys, huge hockey fans, would love the chance to meet one of the greatest hockey players of the day. He neglected to take into account team loyalty, as his sons were rabid Montreal Canadian fans, bitter rivals of Orr's Boston Bruins. They had no interest in talking to the hated Bruin, even as they sat beside him for the half hour ride home. We take our hockey pretty seriously here in Canada.

This book is part biography (but unauthorized) and part hockey history. Beginning when Bobby Orr was just a lad, up to his untimely retirement at age 28, Brunt follows the career of one of the most dazzling hockey players Canada has produced. And because he retired so young, comparisons are difficult if inevitable. If only orthopedics surgery was better, if only he had played in the 1980s. He dominated so dramatically in his short time in the league (2 Stanley Cups, 3 time league MVP, 8 straight years best defenceman in NHL) it always seems a shame that he was felled by a bum knee.

Bobby Orr was one of the last from old-time hockey, entering the NHL when it was still just six teams after committing to the Bruins as a fourteen year old. He will also always be linked with Alan Eagleson, the first sports agent in hockey who negotiated one of the first good deals for a hockey player. It's too bad that Bobby Orr didn't want to talk to Brunt, because the distance is felt by the reader, even though Brunt manages to give good look at Orr's very private life. Brunt had lots of great little details, provided by people close to Orr, but I never felt like I got to know Bobby Orr. I certainly got to know his career, and a bigger hockey fan than I would appreicate some of the gamesand goals as they were described in detail.

I think there is also another story here to be told, about Alan Eagleson and his dealings with hockey players. That is another aspect I didn't feel was looked at much in depth, but it would be a much bigger story, and Bobby Orr is only a part of that one. It just gives me another book to look for. I enjoyed reading Bobby Orr's story, reading about the hockey players I grew up watching, and realizing how special Bobby Orr was. Brunt is a fan of Orr's but doesn't gloss over anything. I thought he did a good job of showing the different sides of Bobby Orr, warts and all, and depicting an interesting part of hockey history.

Brunt has another hockey book coming out later this fall, Gretzky's Tears, about Wayne Gretzky. I am more of Gretzky's era, and can remember where I was when I heard he had been traded to the LA Kings. Do you? Looks like a good Christmas present for my husband. I'm sure he would have talked to Gretzky in the car.

Who's the best hockey player? There's a little poll for you to tick.




1 comment:

John Mutford said...

You really have to read Night Work: The Terry Sawchuk Poems. Best hockey book ever.