Bobby Orr Biog

Martin AverySenior Writer IFebruary 1, 2009

Looking for a good hockey book to read on the dock this summer?

Stephen Brunt's book, Searching For Bobby Orr, is the next best thing to the official Bobby Orr biography, which is reportedly five years away.

Brunt’s book is a big bestseller, cashing in on the magic of Bobby Orr. 

However, Brunt fails to mention the strong Muskoka links to Orr's early development years.

Searching For Bobby Orr tells the life story of the most famous No. 4, but there is a lot of focus on his early years in Parry Sound and on his coach, Bucko McDonald, who had a huge impact on hockey in Muskoka.

Nobody has ever noted that Bobby Orr spent most of his formative years playing hockey in Muskoka and against teams from Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and Huntsville.

From the time he started playing for the Parry Sound Shamrocks squirts, at age five, until the time he left the Parry Sound bantams to play Jr. A in Oshawa, Orr had a good decade of playing hockey in Muskoka and against teams the Indians, Bears, and Huskies.

Orr started playing Jr. A at age 14 and moved to Oshawa the next year. Until he made the move to the Jr. A Generals, he played most of his hockey in a league made up of the Original Four: Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Parry Sound.

Brunt, the Toronto sportswriter, gives a great deal of credit for the discovery and early development of the young hockey star to his peewee coach in Parry Sound, a former NHLer known as “Bucko” McDonald.

Brunt says McDonald was the one who got Orr to play defence, instead of forward, which seemed counter-intuitive to Bobby Orr's father and most other people, since the young Bobby was not big and he was a great skater. Small, fast, hockey players were usually made forwards and the big, slower skaters, played defence.

Brunt also gives “Bucko” credit for letting Orr play defence in his own, original, style, which was the opposite of the 'stay at home' defenceman everyone in hockey was familiar with. Bucko played defence the traditional way in the NHL.

Wilfred Kennedy "Bucko" McDonald was a professional hockey player, a hockey coach, and a politician. He played in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Rangers. He won three Stanley Cups in his career, in 1936 and 1937 with Detroit and in 1942 with Toronto.

In 1945, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the Ontario riding of Parry Sound/Muskoka as a Liberal and was re-elected in 1949 and 1953. After leaving politics, he returned to hockey as the head coach of the Rochester Americans. He later returned to his roots in Muskoka/Parry Sound to coach minor hockey.

He coached Bobby Orr when he was 11 and 12, playing peewee and bantam hockey for the Parry Sound Shamrocks.  Bucko is the one who got Bobby Orr to play defence. Bobby Orr’s father questioned the decision, but Bucko simply responded to Doug Orr that Bobby was born to play defence.     

Bucko was a defensive blueliner for 11 NHL seasons and known as Bashing Bucko McDonald because of his exuberant body checking. He played in the longest NHL game ever, in the 1936 playoffs when the Red Wings played the Montreal Maroons for nine periods. By the end of the sixth period of overtime, McDonald was credited with 37 knock downs.

McDonald was one of the greatest lacrosse players in Canadian history. A Mann Cup champion and Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer, McDonald didn't turn his attention to hockey until the collapse of the professional lacrosse league in 1931

He even became an NHL all star in 1942 and played a total of 446 NHL games, scoring 35 goals and 123 points.

It doesn't say so in Brunt's book but after Orr left Parry Sound for Oshawa, to play Jr. A at such an early age, Bucko left Parry Sound for Bracebridge, where he was the heart of the town's minor hockey program for many years.

Some people in Muskoka still miss Bucko. A recent editorial in a Huntsville newspaper lamented the decline of minor hockey in Muskoka since the death of Bucko McDonald, despite the efforts made to establish Junior hockey here, with the Jr. C. Gravenhurst Cubs, the Jr. A Huntsville Otters, and the Jr. A. South Muskoka Shield.

Sunderland is still claiming Bucko as one of its most famous sons, as he lived in that tiny town just north of Muskoka after his career as a lacrosse and hockey player ended.  The Sunderland website still informs people that Bucko was on three Stanley Cup winning teams in the era of The Original Six.

There is no Hockey Hall Of Fame in Muskoka to commemorate Bucko McDonald and Bobby Orr. The closest thing we have is the showcases of hockey history in the lobbies of hockey rinks in Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and Huntsville. None of them give any hints that Bobby Orr and Bucko McDonald were here.

Gravenhurst has tributes to Wayne Rutlege and Dave King, Bracebridge honours Ace Bailey and Roger Crozier, as well as a Jr. C team that did well in the Seventies, and Huntsville pays homage to some famous sons who played lacrosse as well as hockey.

The Muskoka Hockey Hall Of Fame would have to honour Gravenhurst's Irving Ungerman, with his connections to Al Eagleson and the Team Canada that took on the USSR in the 1970s. It would also have to recognize that Muskoka is the summer home of many members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, past and present, and the Leafs practiced here in the pre-season last year. Huntsville is the home of the Canadian national Pond Hockey championship.

Ace Bailey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. He was born in Bracebridge and played eight NHL seasons from 1926 to 1934, totalling 111 goals and 82 assists in 313 games. In 1926 was signed by the Toronto St. Patricks of the National Hockey League, renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first season with the team. He was the leading scorer and goal scorer in the NHL in the 1928-29 season, with 22 goals and 32 points in 44 games. He was again the Leafs leading scorer in 1929-30 and was just one point short of repeating in 1930-31.

His No. 6 jersey was the first ever to be retired by an NHL team, and is one of only two to have been permanently retired by the Maple Leafs. Following his career-ending injury, Bailey coached the University of Toronto Varsity Blues hockey team from 1935 to 1940 and again after World War II from 1945 to 1949, winning three Canadian Inter university Athletics Union championships.

He worked as a timekeeper at Maple Leaf Gardens from 1938 to 1984, when the 81-year-old Bailey was told by Gardens owner Harold Ballard that his services were no longer needed.

Bailey's career came to an abrupt end on December 12, 1933, when he was charged from behind by Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins. It was feared that Bailey would not survive. An all-star benefit game was held at Maple Leaf Gardens 13 years before the NHL would introduce an annual all-star game.

Another Muskokan in the Hockey Hall of Fame is Bill Carson, who was born in Bracebridge in 1900. He helped lead the University of Toronto to two Allan Cup victories.  The Toronto St Pats noticed Carson's performance and boasted his signing with the team in 1926.  He played with Ace Bailey when the Pats became the Maple Leafs. Carson scored the first Maple Leaf goal and later scored the winning goal in the Bruins' first Stanley  Cup.

Roger Crozier was born in Bracebridge and played for fourteen seasons in the National Hockey League, receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy, Calder Memorial Trophy, compiling a 3.04 GAA in 518 regular season games. He was also named a First-Team N.H.L. All-Star.

Ethan Moreau, born in Huntsville, is now playing left wing for the Edmonton Oilers. He was a first round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks and recently signed a four year contract extension with the Oilers which will take him through to 2011. In

Eric Lindros is considered a Muskokan by many as he often says he loves to spend his off-season time here. Over his 13-year NHL career, Lindros has posted 367 goals and 472 assists for 839 in 711 games with Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and now the Dallas Stars.

The six-time NHL All-Star was awarded the Hart Trophy for League MVP during the 1994-95 season when he averaged 1.52 points-per-game, leading the league in scoring with 70 points (29-41-70). A 40-goal scorer four times over his career and a 30-goal scorer seven times. He was the Quebec Nordique’s first round selection (first overall) in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft and served as the Flyers captain from 1994-2000 and was a Canadian Olympian three times. 

The next one from Muskoka may be Blake Parlett , a 17-year-old defenceman for the Barrie Colts, eligible for the National Hockey League draft for the first time this season. The Bracebridge native is a former Huntsville Muskoka Otter and has worked at Kris King’s hockey camp in Gravenhurst.

Detroit calls itself “Hockey Town”, but how can it compete with Muskoka, which has a greater claim to that name than anywhere on the planet, even Moscow and Toronto, with Bobby Orr, Ace Bailey, Bill Carson, Roger Crozier, Dave King, and perhaps Blake Parlett, as well as being the summer home of Eric Lindros, Steve Yzerman, and most of the Toronto Maple Leafs, past and present.

It should also be noted that Harold Ballard did time in Muskoka, when he owned the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and was sent to Beaver Creek for cooking the books at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Muskoka is also the home of one of Canada’s greatest sports writers. Roy MacGregor grew up in Huntsville and he competed for several years against a kid named Bobby Orr.

“I played against Bobby for several years simply because we're the same age and Huntsville and Parry Sound were in the same hockey district -- it had nothing to do with comparable abilities. He was amazing, even as an eight-year-old squirt. He could hoist the puck all the way from the blueline and score goals right over the head of one of our goaltenders. He could skate through our entire team—and we weren't bad—get a shot, and still be first man back on defence.

“I remember him as being squat and his hair white more so than blond. He had a different way of skating, almost as if rising off a chair as he went. Quite talented. We were the same age through squirt, pee wee and bantam. He went off to play for the Oshawa Generals. He was a superstar and played up a level, as well.

“I was one of those players who could make the All-Star team one year, not the next. So no one should ever make the mistake of thinking I did anything but periodically appear on the same ice surface so he could skate in circles around me.

“It's fascinating to me that he was not always seen as the greatest player of his time in that area. Bracebridge and Gravenhurst had good young players. And in Huntsville, we had Tim Kelly, who still lives in town, and Tim could give young Bobby a run for his money. Tim also went off to play junior but a knee injury put an end to his hockey ambitions before Orr's knees put an end to his.

“We were well coached in those days. Bobby had Bucko MacDonald and Huntsville had Mye Sedore. It was taken very seriously. In the years that I covered the NHL I would sometimes run into Bobby in Boston and we would have a good chat and some good memories of those wonderful years in the late 1950s and early 1960s when it was Huntsville up against Parry Hoot and no matter what we did, or how many goals Tim Kelly scored, Bobby Orr and the Shamrocks always managed to whip our butts.”

MacGregor went on to co-author two books with Canadiens legend Ken Dryden and wrote the Screech Owls series which was a huge international bestseller about hockey for kids. He still plays old-timers hockey and has been a minor-hockey coach for more than a decade. Roy MacGregor is a columnist for the Globe and Mail and the author of numerous books, including the number-one national bestsellers Home Game (written with Ken Dryden) and The Home Team. He has also written the game’s best-known novel, The Last Season. His other books include Road Games, The Seven A.M. Practise,

Orr went on to be one of the greatest hockey players in history. He has been voted second greatest hockey player of all time by The Hockey News, ahead of Gordie Howe and behind Wayne Gretzky, as well as being named the top defenceman of all time.

He was named to the NHL First All-Star Team eight times, awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy, the James Norris Trophy eight times, the Art Ross Trophy twice as the only defence man to ever lead the league in scoring, the Hart Memorial Trophy three times, the Conn Smythe Trophy twice, and was on two Stanley Cup winners. He was the only player in history to win four major NHL awards in one season.

Orr also won Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian athlete of the year, the Lester B. Pearson Award, the Lester Patrick Trophy, was named the Canada Cup Tournament was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Orr’s records include:

  • Most points in one NHL season by a defence man (139; 1970–71).
  • Most assists in one NHL season by a defence man (102; 1970–71).
  • Highest plus/minus in one NHL season (+124; 1970-71).
  • Tied for most assists in one NHL game by a defenceman.

He held the record for most assists in one NHL season from 1971 to 1981 (102; broken by Wayne Gretzky and also bettered by Mario Lemieux), this is still a record for a defenceman. He also held the record for most goals in one NHL season by a defenceman

Bobby Orr’s first NHL game was against the Detroit Red Wings and the famous Gordie Howe, with Roger Crozier, from Bracebridge, playing goal for Detroit. Crozier won that one. Orr scored    In his first professional season, Orr won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's outstanding rookie and propelled the Bruins to make the playoffs the following twenty-nine straight seasons, a North American professional sports record.

Not bad for a kid from Parry Sound who grew up playing hockey in Muskoka.


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