“Orr: My Story” is Bobby Orr’s long-overdue autobiography. It was published in 2013 — nearly 35 years after he played his last game. That’s just too long for an athlete to wait before writing a book.
Granted, a few years between the end of a player’s career and publishing their memoirs is usually a good idea, as time gives some perspective. Even 20 years after the end of Orr’s career would have been appropriate for a book, as a lot of important points in his life — such as his legal battle with former agent Alan Eagleson and later becoming a player agent himself — happened well after his playing days were done.
But wait too long, and a lot of the details that make a memory get lost. Fans would hope for vivid details of Orr’s life, but they aren’t really given any in this book.
We get a good feel for Orr’s life, from his early days in Parry Sound, Ontario, to playing youth hockey, junior hockey, his pro career and beyond. Usually, each segment of his career is given a chapter.
Some chapters do not focus on Orr’s career, though. Towards the end, he writes about the state of the game and gives advice to young players and their parents. He also has two chapters about the two most influential people in his life, besides his parents, of course. One chapter is dedicated to his favorite coach on the Bruins, Don Cherry.
The other is about his least favorite person, former player agent and head of the NHL Players Association, Alan Eagleson. For those who do not know, Eagleson practically bankrupted Orr and cheated him out of much of his salary. Orr also considered Eagleson his best friend, and was both angered and saddened by Eagleson’s betrayal. Yet, Orr takes the high road, never resorting to name calling someone who hurt him emotionally and financially.
And that’s probably the biggest problem with this book. Orr is way too modest throughout, and way too nice. In the Introduction, Orr states that he has no interest in talking in detail of his accomplishments. That’s fine, since so much has been written about his NHL career anyway. But Orr doesn’t talk about any of the humanitarian things he did off the ice, such as putting former teammate Derek Sanderson through rehab for alcoholism. Perhaps this is to avoid bragging or showing anyone in a negative light.
At the same time, Orr doesn’t speak ill of anyone, except for Eagleson. Orr states that he has no interest in dishing out dirt. Apparently, this includes dirt on himself, too. Orr claims that he’s no angel, but doesn’t tell us when he could have been a better person. For example, while with Chicago, Orr was emotionally distraught about the state of his life and picked a fight with Vancouver’s Hilliard Graves at a bar. Orr apologized to Graves later that night. Orr never addresses this in his book; about how emotionally imbalanced he was, how he did something wrong and then owned up to it and apologized.
The result is a book that is very vanilla. It tells us the facts, relives some safe stories, but doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
Quote that epitomizes “Orr: My Story”: “…one thing I always thought people got wrong about me was the idea that things were a little easier for me than for other players, or that I was somehow different from everyone else. If that were the case, my story probably wouldn’t be worth telling. But I am no different from anyone else. What was easy for me was not what I wanted to write about. I decided that if was going to do this [book], I would have to write about what was difficult.”
What I like about “Orr: My Story”: Orr’s book may be vanilla, but it is still interesting to hear about what it was like to leave home at such a young age to purse a hockey career. The chapters about Orr after his playing career was over were particularly good. We learn how how he had to move on and find himself.
What I dislike about “Orr: My Story”: The overly-modest tone gets dull. No one is that perfect of a human being, and Orr trying to steer clear of anything controversial or negative, or deprecating about himself, gets boring fast.