Monday, December 21, 2009
On this date in 1972, Bobby Orr set a new NHL record for career points by a defenseman. Orr had an assist in an 8-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings to give him 541 points in 423 games, passing Doug Harvey's 540 points in 1,113 games.
After the Bruins Stanley Cup triumph at the conclusion of the 1971-72 season, Orr underwent knee surgery on June 6, removing several bits of cartilage and some bone spurs, causing him to miss the Summit Series with the Soviet Union in September.
The World Hockey Association started play in 1972-73 and had signed away both Gerry Cheevers, John MacKenzie and Derek Sanderson from the Bruins, although Sanderson would soon return to Boston. The loss of Cheevers would especially hurt the Bruins, as he started 41 games the year prior with a goals against average of 2.50. For 1972-73, Ed Johnston would get the bulk of the starts with 45, but his goals against would rise from 2.71 (in 38 starts) to 3.27 with a 24-17-1 record. Other goalies to see duty in the nets for Boston would include John Adams (14 games, 9-3-1), Ross Brooks (16 games, 11-1-3) and none other than Jacques Plante (8 games, 7-1-0).
The Bruins would be led in scoring by Phil Esposito with 55 goals and 75 assists for 130 points to lead the league in all three categories. It was Esposito's fourth highest total of his career.
Orr was limited to 63 games of the 78 game schedule due but still surpassed the 100 point mark for the fourth of six consecutive seasons with 29 goals and 72 assists for 101 points, finishing second in team scoring to Esposito. He would play in the NHL All-Star Game and would win the Norris Trophy for the sixth of eight times.
The Bruins, despite finishing with the second best record in the NHL that season, would fire coach Tom Johnson 52 games into the season, coming off a Stanley Cup championship. Under new coach Bep Guidolin, the Bruins would be run out of the playoffs in the first round by the New York Rangers, who finished just behind them in the standings, as only the top four teams in each division would qualify for the playoffs in those days, meaning the Original Six heavy Eastern Conference was a battle right from the start.
Orr had first come up to the Bruins in 1966, and simply revolutionized the position of defense, with his end to end rushes and attacks, previously unheard of by players of his position. He benefitted from playing in Boston Garden, where the rink was 9 feet shorter than a standard rink, getting him from one end of the ice to the other that much faster.
He so dominated his position that he won his first Norris Trophy in 1968 after a season in which he only played in 46 games due to injury. Two seasons later Orr would turn the hockey world on it's head, leading the league with 120 points, becoming the first defenseman to lead the league in scoring and scoring the cup winning goal in overtime of the finals, an iconic moment frozen in hockey history as he flew through the air like a superhero in celebration.
He would top that mark the following season with an astounding 139 points, still the all-time record for a defenseman nearly 40 years later. In comparison, Harvey's top offensive season was in 1956-57 when he scored 50 points on 6 goals and 44 assists and his highest ever goal total was merely 9 in 1957-58 in comparison to Orr's top season of 46 and five separate seasons of more than 30.
Today's jersey is a Wilson 1968-69 Boston Bruins Bobby Orr jersey worn during the first season he would top 20 goals and set the then points record in a season for a defenseman with 64, a record he would shatter the following season with 120 and again in the next with his all-time record 139, forever changing the position of defense.
This game worn, photo matched jersey sold in October of 2006 for $83,544.90.
Once again, we could post 100 videos of Orr in action, but believe this one captures the dominance of Orr's game. Simply amazing what a complete player he was.