It’s the 50th anniversary of Bobby Orr’s most memorable goal — the one where he’s flying through the air and celebrating after clinching a Stanley Cup victory — and that got me thinking. Bobby Orr, the greatest defenseman to ever play the great game of hockey, never had a decent hockey card when he played for the Chicago Black Hawks. All of his card from 1976-77 and 1977-78 use photos that have been crudely repainted, while his final card from 1978-79 used a photo of Orr in a Team Canada uniform.
That always bothered me. So, I decided to give Orr a final card that is more fitting for a player of his magnitude.
First, let’s take a look at cards of Orr that were issued in his last three seasons.
Orr’s Topps and O-Pee-Chee cards from 1976-77 use an action photo that has been repainted, and features a terribly-drawn ‘Hawks logo. In a way, the card actually makes a great metaphor for how terrible it all was; both Orr’s time with Chicago (he was injured most of the time) AND the false pretenses (his agent lied to him) that led to him leaving the Bruins in the first place.
Topps actually made a second card of Orr that season — a smaller-sized “Glossy Insert” with rounded corners. The style of collar appears to be consistent with the road jerseys that the Black Hawks wore from 1973 to 1977, so I think this card has been doctored. It may be a “head swap,” where Topps put Orr’s head on a different player’s shoulders; because there is no way that Topps wold have gotten a real photo in time for production. Getting up-to-date pictures last minute just wasn’t what Topps did back then. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about this insert card always seemed off to me.
Orr’s hockey cards in 1977-78 weren’t much better, as they used a close-up photo, but again the picture was repainted. What ruins any illusion of this being a picture of Orr with the Black Hawks is that fact that he is sitting on the bench next to a Bruins player. He did play 20 games for Chicago the previous year, so the companies could have used an actual photo of Orr with the Black Hawks.
In 1977-78, Orr sat out to recover from his latest knee surgery and worked as an assistant coach with the Black Hawks. He returned to play in 1978-79, so you think Topps would have put him in its set that year. After all, this was the same company that airbrushed Jacques Lemaire into a Sabres uniform a few years prior, even though he was never actually traded to the Sabres.
But Topps didn’t bother including Orr in its 1978-79 set. I guess they didn’t get the memo that the game’s greatest defenseman was back in action. Orr only played in six games, though, then retired in November of 1978.
When the 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee set came out in early 1979, it included a card commemorating Orr’s career, but it pictured him with Team Canada. He’s sitting on the bench and looks like he’s yelling at kids to get off his lawn. That was the last card of Orr as an active player, and if you ask me, not a very interesting card; it’s not action-oriented, nor does it show him with an NHL team.
Had Topps included Orr in its 264-card set in 1978-79, I like to think that they would have done it right and used an actual photograph of Orr as a Black Hawks player. It could have looked like this.
This good-but-not-great photo of Orr would be just fine for his final card as an active player, as it shows some action, but isn’t over the top. After all, this was Topps in the 1970s, so any hockey card that *didn’t* use a photo from warmups or a stoppage of play was novel for its time.
Since the first 264 cards of the 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee set mirrored the Topps set, O-Pee-Chee would have most likely have followed suit and issued a “standard” card of Orr — but with one important difference.
Orr retired November 8, 1978, so a 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee card would have included the text “Retired from active playing.” This exact same phrasing was used on Tom Edur’s 1978-79 O-Pee-Chee card, so putting that on Orr’s card would be consistent.
These two customs feel like the cards that should have been issued during Orr’s final season. They would also be useful for taunting Bruins fans, as they tend to get irritable when you remind them that Number Four ended his career not in Beantown, but in the Windy City.
What custom card would you like to see me make next? Leave a comment and let me know. ■