WAR OVER ORR
Bobby Orr, who has been sidelined with knee trouble since November, may not play anymore this season and, indeed, may never play for the Boston Bruins again. Or so says his agent, Alan Eagle-son, who has been trying to negotiate a new contract for his star client since last summer. Whatever happens, Orr's future will have a profound effect on the National Hockey League's future.
Orr's five-year, $200,000-plus contract with the Bruins expires on June 1. Eagleson originally suggested an increase to $500,000 on an unconditional five-year contract but raised that to a somewhat vague $10 million lifetime package last summer after receiving a $6.5 million bid for Orr's services from the now defunct Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association. In round figures the Bruins originally offered $325,000, upped that to $500,000 after Minnesota came into the picture and, after Orr's knee was twice operated on last fall, lowered it to $350,000 for five years, with provisions for reduced payments if he is injured yet again.
And that's where it stands. Eagleson accuses the Bruins of being heartless. "They're not giving Bobby five cents worth of security," he snaps. "They don't look at the record book and see what he has done for the team. Or recognize that Bobby Orr gave his knees for the Bruins."
Eagleson says he may offer Orr's services to other NHL clubs when the player's contract with the Bruins expires in June. An agreement reached last autumn between the owners and the players includes a provision that obliges the team signing such a free agent to compensate the team that loses him. Eagleson, who is executive director of the Players Association but who has put off signing that agreement, says Orr has a "very special contract" that exempts him from this provision. But NHL President Clarence Campbell denies this, saying no player is exempt.
If Orr attempts to sign with another team and is rebuffed, or if he signs and Boston is not compensated, litigation will certainly ensue. The peace that appeared to come to the NHL with last fall's agreement will disappear. As one NHL club official warned, "We'll have a war."
JOY IN THE PLAYGROUND
The all-consuming demand for victory in sport calls to mind the comments of Marquette basketball Coach Al McGuire on the carefree behavior last year of his star guard, Butch Lee.
"I'd take him out of a game," McGuire says, "and he'd be up and down the bench slapping hands with the guys. I'd say, 'Hey, Butch, what are you doing? We're down by nine points.'
"It's tough to get players like Butch to realize this. They're so used to playground games. Everybody just comes and plays. The game is just for the joy of playing. Somebody beats somebody else, and then they all go down to the corner and have hot dogs and a Coke."