I never saw Bobby Orr and the 1970 Bruins play live but that moment 50 years ago today, when Orr flew through the air and the 1970 Bruins won the Stanley Cup helped shape my career as a hockey journalist.
Not only did Orr and that team provide an iconic sports moment on that fateful Mother’s Day at Boston Garden but they captivated and connected with the local community so much that they helped start the local youth hockey scene in Greater Boston. After that day, Boston and surrounding towns, via the MDC, built rink after rink and helped Boston become one of this country’s hockey hotbeds. To many, those few aging rinks you see still open around Boston were the rinks that Orr built. For me though, Orr and the 1970 Bruins – through the imprint they made on my grandfather 50 years ago today and for the years that followed – also indirectly built a journalism career that has now seen me cover the NHL for 19 years and the Bruins for 16.
For a 45-year-old sports fan from New England like yours truly, Bobby Orr and the 1970 Bruins were instilled into your psyche at an early age. All of these memories of that beloved team and the greatest hockey player ever that have been shared this past week are stored away in our brains and could be told word-for-word. For many that never got to see Orr play live, he can almost seem like some superhero the way our parents, grandparents, and the media presented him. He did, of course, fly through the air like Superman after scoring the overtime winner in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final 50 years ago Sunday, giving the Bruins their first Cup in 29 years and sending the Big Bad Bruins era full force ahead.
I was lucky enough to have a grandfather who was at that game and even better, had season tickets to the games at the old Boston Garden when I was growing up. I started going to games with him when I was 8 during the 19 and maybe missed at most 5-7 games a season from the 1982-83 season until I went to college for the 1993-94 season. Until I was 18, he and I would drive together from Arlington, MA to Sullivan Square in Somerville, MA and then take the Orange Line two stops into North Station. During all those rides and games, at least one story a week, every two weeks at the most, Orr and/or the 1970 Bruins would enter the conversation. Those rides, stories, and games helped shape my passion for the game, and eventually, I decided to use all that passion and knowledge of the game I had built up to study journalism and eventually become a hockey journalist.
Thankfully, I went to UMass-Amherst just an hour and 45 minutes west of the Hub and was able to still travel back for games, not as many but enough. My best live and in-person Bobby Orr moment came on September 26, 1995, at the Last Hurrah, a celebration honoring the Garden one final time prior to an exhibition with the Montreal Canadiens and before they began to tear it down. As always, Orr got the loudest ovation but this one according to my grandfather, definitely approached the level of May 10, 1970, when Johnny Bucyk skated with the Cup around the old barn.
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Of course, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Ray Bourque and Don Sweeney escorted former Bruins forward Normand Léveillé out to center ice to join the Bruins alumni and then helped skate him around the ice with Terry O’Reilly for one final lap on Garden ice.
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With the Bruins celebrating the 50th anniversary of that glorious Cup-winning season this past week and NHL Network airing their documentary ‘Big, Bad And Bobby’ Sunday night at 8 PM ET, I’ve been longing for those stories from my grandfather. Well, on Saturday, I got one from someone who was with him on that Mother’s Day 50 years ago, my mother’s good friend Brenda Dutton who described what it was like to be with him for that magical moment.
“It was crazy! I can’t even describe it. …it was surreal,” she recalled. “I was with your grandfather and ‘Shorty’ his good friend and he was so good to me bringing me to so many games but to be at that one was unreal. We were right there when he scored. Loge 8 and right down on by the ice. When [Derek] Sanderson fed him that puck and Bobby Orr put it in and he was in the air and we were right there and we ended up in the Record American! You can see our hands going up.”
After that, a joyful pandemonium ensued.
“It wasn’t like today and when they tear things down sometimes, it was just this unbelievable feeling,” she said. “Just everyone was so happy, I’ll never forget it. Fans jumped on the ice and skated around with [Johnny] Bucyk and the Cup and then they all gathered at center ice. It was so loud in there you couldn’t hear. Just so much fun. I remember when I left to get my car, going downstairs, it was wild! There was a bar downstairs called the Horse Bar and everybody was dancing on the bar and there was no looting, everybody was just so happy. They just could not believe what they just saw. At that moment, Boston was the greatest. It was wonderful.”
So wonderful that 50 years later, that moment that had an influence on this puck scribe and helped indirectly shape my career, has me writing on it once again. Obviously, when I became a journalist I had to numb the fan in me and I’ve taken pride in always striving to be as fair and objective as can be. Writing and hearing these specific words though, never grows old, never fails to send chills down my spine, and memories of my grandfather flowing through my soul.
‘Here’s Bobby Orr, behind the net to Sanderson, score! Bobby Orr scores and the Boston Bruins have won the Stanley Cup!’