Wayne Gretzky turned 55 today and that's great for that old fart. His list of team accomplishments is fantastic, and he's probably like a top-two-or-three forward all-time in the NHL. But on this, St. Louis Blues Legend Wayne Gretzky's 55th, we should really celebrate the best player to ever lace up a pair of skates: Number 4, Robert Gordon Orr.
No seriously, he's the best there ever was. Here's a story from the first time Bobby Orr played at Boston Garden, from a guy that was there:
When Bobby Orr first showed up, he was something else. He took the puck behind the Bruins net, skated the whole length of the ice through everyone on the other team, and got in on net. He didn't score, but the whole place was silent, in awe. Then one of the gallery gods yelled out from way up in the balcony, clearly enough for the whole arena to hear, "Is this kid for fuckin' real?"
The answer? Yes, absolutely. He was for real. I don't need to bore you with stats, but he led the NHL in many categories for basically his whole career until injuries made him hang 'em up. Gretzky gets credit for playing longer, and staying healthy in the NHL is no little feat. But Gretzky also scored the bulk of his points in the high-flying cocaine-laced 80s, when goalies were bad, defense was non-existent, and the talent pool hadn't quite caught up to expansion.
Trophies? A picture's worth a thousand words.
Here are those words, now devalued like a goal in 1984: Yeah, they've both got a bunch of them. Bobby Orr famously has 8 straight Norris trophies. That's enough to match or beat any two players outside of the top three. That's Ray Bourque and Chris Chelios combined. Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin, and Erik Karlsson. Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara, Pk Subban, Rod Langway, AND Brian Leetch all together have fewer Norris trophies than Bobby Orr. It's insane.
Bobby Orr is also the ONLY defenseman in history to win the Art Ross for most points in a season. The only one. And he did it twice.
Bobby Orr won the Hart trophy for MVP 3 times. Gretzky? 9. Gretzky played forever and had Mark "The Skatin' Elbow" Messier himself alongside for a lot of those years.
One trophy that Orr did win, that Gretzky may have been eligible for and didn't win, is the Calder. Gretzky got rookie of the year honors in the WHA, sure, but his first year in the NHL was apparently not quite good enough for a rookie of the year trophy from his new league. The winner that year? A young fellow you may have heard of from Quebec named Raymond Jean Bourque. The real winners that year? The US Men's Olympic Team in Lake Placid.
Oh yeah, and Gretzky looked like a dork.
Bobby Orr? Not only the perfect gentleman from Parry Sound, but also just an absolute delight to watch tool on just about everyone in his path. And not so bad on the eyes off-ice, either. I could yammer about Bobby Orr forever, but instead I'm going to leave you with this delightful video of him doing what he did best: Stomp on suckas