Story of the Week
BOBBY ORR & PHIL ESPOSITO
The National Hockey League produced some fine individual and team performances in the 1970’s. Among the finest of the individual exploits in the first years of the decade were those of two Boston Bruins, defenseman Bobby Orr and center Phil Esposito.
Both had joined the Bruins in the latter 1960’s. Orr came up in 1966 as a rookie, and Esposito a year later after four seasons with the Black Hawks. Both emerged as full-fledged stars by 1969, and both had their best years in the early 1970’s.
Orr did not believe in limiting himself to a defensive role. He was the league’s first true offensive defenseman. He constantly gathered in the puck and then moved it with lightning-like speed deep into enemy territory for an attempted score or a sharply-hit pass to one of his several high-scoring teammates, Esposito being the most notable.
Orr brought to his position an aggressive style that had not been seen in defensemen. He was personally responsible for thrilling the fans, and he caused so many other defensemen to follow suit and become more offensive-minded. During his career, Orr invariably led the NHL in assists, and in 1974-75, he led in both assists and total points. Orr was traded to Chicago, played two seasons there, and then retired in 1979, victim of two long-damaged knees. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame that very same year.
Phil Esposito came to Boston after four mediocre years in Chicago. On arrival, he showed immediate improvement, increasing both his production of goals and assists. Then, with Orr, Esposito blossomed with the coming of the 1970’s. It hardly seems a coincidence that his best scoring was done in the same seasons that Orr was taking the league’s assist honors. For six straight years, Esposito led the league in goals scored.
Orr helped Esposito produce goals, but Esposito, as big a force as he was at the center position, caused plenty of havoc in front of the net on his own. He was an immovable object in front of the goal; that was his personal parking space.
Regardless of his skills and many accomplishments, Espo was traded to the New York Rangers in 1975 in his 13th. year in the NHL. He skated for the Rangers for five years before retiring in 1981. Phil Esposito is also in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That Boston Bruins team is the most exciting (not necessarily the very best) team I’ve ever seen. The team was loaded with characters; Boston fans loved them, and opposing teams and fans hated them. But they filled every arena they visited. And Orr and Esposito were clearly the team’s leaders.
Last Week’s Trivia
Two records were set at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on September 16, 1975. I don’t believe they will ever be equaled. Rennie Stennett got seven hits for the Pirates, a record for a nine-inning game. The Pirates crushed the Cubs, 22-0, in the largest shutout victory in major league history.
Trivia Question of the Week
The cost of Super Bowl tickets today has escalated to a ludicrous point. What was the printed price on the tickets to Super Bowl I in 1967?See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.