It also explains why preseason rivals were solicitously giving him a wide berth on the ice. In one of the games against Montreal, Orr slid into the Chicago net and his left knee struck a goalpost. The knee was not affected but Stan Mikita, Chicago's veteran center, said, "You get scared when Bobby goes down like that. You wonder if this is it."
"Hockey's a fast, contact game," counters Orr. "If I can't take it, I shouldn't be playing." Orr also dismisses suggestions that by skating on the bad knee he risks crippling himself for life. "I've got an arthritic condition in the knee that's likely to bother me, but it's there. I appreciate the concern, but the damage has already been done."
Nobody wishes Orr more success in his comeback attempt than Pulford, who says that even under the best of circumstances, Orr would play far less than the 40 minutes he customarily logged in the old days. He also would sit out some games, and be called upon to move the puck to teammates rather than carry it himself.
"It's unrealistic to think Bobby can be the same player he once was," says Pulford. "But if the knee holds up, he's not going to be just another hockey player, either. You could see that in the exhibition games he's played. There's no way Bobby Orr will ever be ordinary."
Maybe Orr really did have to give it another try.