Tuesday, April 5, 2016
On this date in 1970, Bobby Orr had an assist in the final game of the season and became the first, and still only, defenseman in NHL history to lead the league in scoring.
Up to that point in his NHL career, Bobby Orr had already made a huge impact on the NHL. In his Calder Trophy winning rookie season in 1966-67, Orr finished second in scoring for defensemen. One of his many knee injuries the following season limited him to just 46 games, yet he was named the winner of the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the league's best defenseman. 1968-69 saw Orr return to lead all defensemen in scoring for the first time with a new career high of 64 points and captured his second Norris Trophy.
Still, no one was prepared for what lie ahead for Orr and the NHL in 1969-70.
Orr obliterated the single season scoring record for defensemen, Red Kelly's 70 points set back in 1961, when he blitzed the league with 33 goals and 87 assists for 120 points. To put Orr's 120 points in perspective, the Seals Carol Vadnais was second with 44 points - 76 behind Orr.
Even more, such was his dominance that Orr's assist total alone was enough to break the record, but with the addition of his 33 goals, Orr not only led all defensemen in points, but the entire NHL as well, outdistancing teammate and center Phil Esposito by 21 points to win the overall scoring race.
In the playoffs, Orr added an additional 20 points on nine goals and 11 assists in 14 games as the Bruins would capture their first Stanley Cup in 29 years, finished off with Orr's overtime goal in Game 4 of their sweep of the St. Louis Blues, captured in this iconic photograph of Orr celebrating the series clinching goal while flying through the air like a superhero.
Following the season Orr was named the recipient of the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Trophy, his now annual Norris Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy as well as leading the league in plus/minus with a +54 rating.
In 1999, The Hockey News asked experts to select the most important regular season performance in NHL history and Orr's 1969-70 season was ranked #1, even ahead of Wayne Gretzky's three separate 200+ point seasons, including the one in which he scored a record 92 goals, because "Orr changed the way the game was played. He expanded the job description of all defensemen who followed. No longer was it accepted for defensemen to join the offense, it was expected of them if teams were to have success."
The following season Orr would set the all-time record for points in a season by a defenseman, which still stands today, with 139 points and continues to hold five of the top eight highest scoring seasons for defensemen in NHL history.
He would conclude is career with two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, the Calder Trophy, eight consecutive Norris Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, three Hart Trophies, the Pearson Award and is still the only defenseman to ever win the scoring title. He was also named the MVP of the 1976 Canada Cup, a recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 as well as having his number 4 retired by the Bruins that same year.
Orr's number 4 is lifted to the rafters by the Bruins
Today's featured jersey is a 1969-70 Boston Bruins Bobby Orr jersey as worn while flying through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal in 1970.
When purchasing an Orr Bruins jersey, please be aware that Orr very rarely wore his name on the back of any jersey during his entire Boston career, with the only exception being for national TV games, as was the practice back then. Quite often Orr jerseys are sold on ebay or other online stores with Orr's name incorrectly on the back of the jersey, as if his iconic #4 wasn't enough.
Even during Orr's first season in Chicago no names were used on the back, making just the final six games of his career with the Black Hawks in 1978-79, a sad and unfortunate end to a great career and not exactly worthy of recreating for your collection, and the 1976 Canada Cup tournament the few times Orr wore his name on the back of a jersey outside of the NHL All-Star Game.
Today's video selection is the Legends of Hockey profile of Bobby Orr.