Said Gordie Howe when he read the first erroneous reports about a $400,000 contract, "I don't think he's actually getting all that kind of money. Still, the bad thing about those figures is that the wives all get talking and pretty soon you're back in there with the general manager talking about rewrites. Don't kid yourself: a lot of guys will have clippings of Orr's contract when they talk to the boss this year. I'm going to mention it. I'm in the second year of a two-year contract now, but I think my contract is renegotiable. We play more games and the prices are going up. I still go in there by myself. I'm too far along to have a guy like Eagleson negotiating for me. But if he had been around when I was 20, I'd have made a lot more money in my career."
Ed Westfall, a Bruin utility man, said, "I think I'm half as good as Bobby Orr. Maybe I can get half as much money." Wayne Maki, an obscure Chicago forward who was working with Orr this summer at a hockey clinic in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, said, "I hope Bobby gets one million a year. Every ten thousand more he gets means another thousand or two for the rest of us. It's going to cost the owners money."
Confronted with talk like this, the Bruins reluctantly began to set matters in a more proper perspective. But the trouble had already begun. Said Henri Richard, "I don't care if the story was wrong. It should help us all. I don't see why we don't get paid as much as the baseball and football players anyway. I'm almost through, but I wish I'd had somebody like Eagleson to talk for me when I broke into the league."
Meanwhile, Orr is unperturbed by the commotion he has caused. He skated two weeks ago for the first time since his most recent knee operation and managed to laugh when Esposito, his Boston teammate, called him Money Bags. "I never said what I signed for, and I don't think it's right for anybody to write what they think I signed for," he said, resting against the sideboards of the rink he was playing in. "I don't know or even want to know how much writers make; I don't know why they should know what I make.
"I just know that I wasn't making any money at all two years ago—oh, I was clearing about $10 a week after paying my expenses while playing amateur hockey in Oshawa—and now Alan Eagleson has made me a lot of money.
"They all wrote about endorsements and life insurance and education. They said all those things were in my contract. Well, they weren't. Sure, I'd like to finish high school, and I'll probably do it this year in Boston. But all I ever really want to do is play hockey. I don't care about anything else."
Now that Orr has signed his contract, there are reports from Chicago that Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita each will try to pry $100,000 from the Black Hawks this year. Howe will ask for more money, too. It is certain that there will be a number of holdouts in Toronto, where Punch Imlach clutches at purse strings. And in Montreal, where the management has always told its players that playoff bonus money was a form of pay raise, there are rumblings about high salary demands and possible holdouts.
Recently an NHL official walked over to Eagleson at a league meeting and asked, "You're Alan Eagleson, aren't you?"
"Yes, I'm Alan Eagleson," the lawyer answered.
"Well, you're not very well liked, you know," the official said.