Ask any hockey fan to craft a list of the top players to ever lace up a pair of skates in the NHL, and the name Bobby Orr will inevitably appear at some position in the top five. The spot is not always the same, and many fans and journalists will make valid cases for Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe. When asked about the best player in hockey, Orr himself will always say, without hesitation, that the greatest is Howe.
In fact, most of what you will find in ORR: MY STORY has nothing to do with Orr's individual achievements. This is not a memoir through which he takes the opportunity to pat himself on the back and justify his own argued greatness. Instead, he gracefully lays out the story of his career, from a young boy in Canada to the heartbreaking end of his game-playing days in Chicago --- a storied career cut short by knee injuries.
"ORR: MY STORY is a tremendous read. It is a book that very easily can be enjoyed by those who have never even watched a hockey game."
Orr focuses the majority of his book on those who helped him succeed. Early on, he will comment that his family, including his siblings, gave up much of their lives in order to shuttle him to practices and games, and to endure all of the attention that came in its wake. And he reminds readers that this is true for everyone, everywhere; if you pursue a dream, those who help you are giving of themselves to help you get what you want. That he recognizes this is refreshing, and it does not come across as some mere cheesy thank-you. For all of the accolades and praise he deflects from himself toward his family, coaches and teammates, one thing is tremendously apparent: he means every word of it, and there is great sincerity in his appreciation of others.
ORR: MY STORY is unique in the recounting of his career because this is the first time that Orr himself has been involved. Previous works, such as SEARCHING FOR BOBBY ORR in 2011, were given an "okay" for publication by Orr, but he refused to be involved in any way. Now, Orr opens up and recalls his playing days as a youth --- the travel and the despair at living away from home, his nervousness at playing his first NHL game against his hero, Gordie Howe, the damage to his knees, and the end of his days as a player --- and he really exposes the pain he felt when he discovered how he had been manipulated and deceived by his agent, Alan Eagleson.
Hockey can bring out the devil in any man. Even the most gentle of souls can be pushed to ire. Orr played with fire, passion, grit and grace on the ice. Off the ice he remains a gentleman, willing to give his time to those who greet him. He has created camps for youth hockey players and even has taken on the mantle of player agent, which he uses to protect players from the more treacherous and deceptive elements of the game. He also takes the time within the final third of the book to explain to players just how to approach hockey at the pro level --- how to be wary and how to deal with the blinding lights of celebrity.
ORR: MY STORY is a tremendous read. It is a book that very easily can be enjoyed by those who have never even watched a hockey game. While hockey was Orr's life, the book is not so much about the game and what he accomplished but rather the people who were beside him every step of the way. It is not a braggart’s book or a gossipy tell-all. ORR: MY STORY is an honest reflection on a life spent doing what he loved, thanking those who helped, and through all of it, staying true to the decent man all parents hope their boys will grow up to be.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on November 1, 2013