There are 6,000 people in Parry Sound.
"The kids grow up and leave," Douglas Orr says. He works at Canadian Industries Ltd., an explosives firm, loading crates. Tourism is the town's major source of income, but Parry Sound is no raucous resort; there are few distractions. It is just a sad, friendly little place, the kind of town where the men stop to peer carefully into hardware store windows and where the pretty girls turn fat before they grow old. It is a good place to play a lot of hockey.
The Orrs live in a house that is comfortable enough for a family with five children, but it is an old building and, even in the harbor cove, it is not sufficiently protected from the harsh boreas, a wind so strong that it has set many trees in the Parry area permanently outstretched to the south, as if frozen in some desperate plea for help.
Because it would be just too expensive to heat them, the Orrs' family room and the parlor adjoining—where all the trophies are displayed—are not used in winter. The oil burner is put at its lowest "to keep the dampness out" and is turned up only for Christmas and New Year's, when the rooms are opened for happy family times. Sometime soon Bobby plans to buy his parents a better house. "You know," he says off-handedly, letting the substance supply the emotion, "they've never had much."
The Orrs are a close and demonstrative family, and Doug Orr became used to hearing his wife and oldest daughter, Pat, bawling in misery over the phone when Bobby first moved to Oshawa. Often Bobby would cry back. One time that year Mr. Orr's younger sister, Mrs. Margaret Atherton, was in the first row at the Bowmanville rink when a hometown player named Chuck Kelly knocked her nephew Bobby into the boards right beneath where she sat. Margaret lashed out, screamed, "Brute!" at Kelly and pasted him a solid blow on his forehead. Bobby skated clear.
Bobby worked that summer at his uncle's butcher shop on James Street. Slicing bacon, he almost cut off the knuckle of his left thumb. His uncle paid him in cash and all the steak he could eat.
Doug and Bobby Orr are as much pals as father and son can afford to be—and, at 41, Doug is, after all, only three years older than Gordie Howe. But within their covenant, the more significant traditional responsibilities—respect for the father, guidance for the son—are never forgotten. There is also more than the normal paternal pride brimming in Doug Orr. There are the memories of Doug Orr himself on the ice, and that painful click of might-have-been. Doug was 17 in 1942, quick and good, and the handsome young bridegroom of Arva Steele from Callender, where the Dionne quintuplets were born. The hockey scouts were after him and Pete Horeck, another Parry Sound lad, but the war was on and Doug joined the Navy instead. By the time he returned, the chance had gone, for his family had started to arrive—Pat, who is 21 now, Ron, 19, Bobby, 18, in quick order; and later Penny, 15, and Doug, 12. "Pete Horeck played a lot of years," Mr. Orr remembers. "He made a pile of money, and now he owns a jewelry store up in Sudbury that's doing very well. Sure, I think I could have made it, but I was young and wanted to travel." He shrugs, and the blurred tattoos on either forearm suddenly seem more obvious. "I'll tell you, I could skate better than Pete Horeck. I'll tell you that if I do say so myself."
Mr. Orr is a deceptively powerful man of 6 feet, 185 pounds. Bobby is a shade shorter and a few pounds lighter, but certain to pass his father once he achieves full growth. Both inherited their athletic ability from Robert Orr, Doug's father, for whom Bobby was named. He was a professional soccer player from Ballymena, Ireland before he immigrated to Parry Sound. The senior Orr saw Bobby play hockey only once, but it was the game in which he scored his first Junior A goal, and it made the old man very happy. He was a great fan. "He used to watch any game they put on television," Bobby says. "When the hockey season ended last year, you could see the change right away. You could see the life just go out of him, and he died a few weeks later."
None of the Orrs look much like each other, but they are all possessed of clear, bright eyes, quick humor and wonderfully natural smiles. Unlike most hockey players, Bobby can still smile through his own teeth. "I guess I'm just lucky," he says. "The worst I ever had was my nose broken when I was 13. Why, I don't even have 25 stitches and haven't lost a single tooth yet—touch wood." He bangs the table and smiles and smile he still can. Orr has been skating for as long as he remembers. After all, organized hockey in most Canadian towns begins with Minor-Squirt play for athletes under 6. Then at 6 there are the Squirts, and after them the Peewees, the Bantams, the Midgets, the Juveniles and the Juniors, A, B, C and D.
When the NHL first stumbled upon Orr, he was 12 and playing in a Peewee playoff game in Gananoque, 300 miles to the southeast. On hand was one Montreal scout and a whole task force of the Bruins' management, there to see two Gananoque prospects named Eaton and Higgins. These two were quickly forgotten as soon as little Orr materialized. Scout Wren Blair—now general manager of the incipient Minnesota North Stars franchise—was immediately dispatched to Parry Sound to donate $1,000 to the hockey program out of the goodness of the Bruins' hearts. This in no way bound Orr. To do that, Blair had to get his signature on a Junior A "card." Consequently, there were occasions when Blair detoured the entire minor league Kingston Frontenacs (whom he was coaching) into Parry Sound, just so he could get in extra licks with the Orrs. The Montreal man was calling, too, and Toronto and Chicago had begun to evince interest.