Five Minutes with Bobby Orr
Published in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey, October 2012
Five Minutes with Bobby Orr
It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.
To hockey fans, Bobby Orr is a legend. To our family, he’s a gentleman.
The Sports Museum of New England, founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts and now located in Boston’s iconic “Gah-den,” home of the Bruins and Celtics, has always held impressive attractions, including sports artist Armand LaMontagne’s life-sized wooden sculptures of some of Boston’s greatest athletes. Bobby Orr is one of those LaMontagne immortalized in basswood.
My sister-in-law Denise worked for the company that commissioned the Sports Museum Orr sculpture, and to celebrate the work's completion the firm hosted an unveiling for its employees at a hotel ballroom. Retired Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr would be on hand to pose for pictures beside his wooden look-alike. As her guest, Denise brought her mom Bertie, a huge fan of the Bruins in general and Bobby Orr in particular.
My mother-in-law had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis years earlier and by the time of the sports museum gala she was largely confined to a wheelchair. Neither MS nor the chair stopped Bertie from living with grace and gusto, and she dressed to the nines, complete with earrings and pearls, for the evening with Bobby Orr.
When Denise and Bertie arrived, a long line already stretched from the hockey great and his chiseled likeness. It would be a while, it appeared, before they’d be able to shake Orr’s hand. Then Bobby looked up and saw them. Excusing himself, he walked to the back of the line, introduced himself to Bertie and asked permission to take her for a spin.
As people watched, Orr wheeled a smiling, delighted Bertie through the venue and to the statue. For a full five minutes -- or at least what felt to Bertie like five amazing minutes -- he focused solely on her. They talked, laughed and admired the artist’s work. Bobby Orr conducted a private showing in a crowded room, just for Bertie.
A few years after Bertie died my husband Mike attended a business dinner that included a charity fundraising auction. Mike zeroed in on one item: an 8x10 color photo of a young Boston Bruins’ #4 in action on the ice, autographed, “Best of Luck, Bobby Orr.”
Mike put in bid after bid, but another man, in the interest of raising as much as possible for the charity, kept outbidding him. Finally, when the man’s bid reached a level bordering on too rich for Mike’s wallet, Mike approached the man and told him about his mom’s evening with the gracious former Bruin.
“That’s an incredible story,” said the bidder. “You can have the picture. And not only that, but I’m going to buy it for you!”
It hangs on our wall today, and when we look at it, we see more than a hockey player. We see a caring human being who brought joy to another through a simple act of kindness. And we also remember that kind man at the auction who carried on in the same tradition.