"I'm glad somebody was there for him," says Frosty's older brother, Bill, from Florida. "He wouldn't come down here. I was a little too hard-nosed; I wouldn't put up with his drinking." Orr stood by Frosty to the end, hovering over him in the hospital, serving as a pallbearer at his funeral. But he wouldn't speak to Bill.
"Bobby wasn't too happy with me," Bill says. "John apparently said something that put me in a bad light. I've never been able to figure it out."
MAYBE IT was the fact that he'd just turned 60, or that two knee-replacement surgeries had freed him of cane and pain. Maybe he figured he could finally take the onslaught of memories without breaking. But on Nov. 27, Orr relented at last, stood on the ice at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont., and allowed the junior team he left in 1966 to retire his number.
Still, he could barely sleep for two nights before. Oshawa, after all, had known him all the way back in 1962 when Orr was raw, wide-open, 14 years old and missing his parents, Doug and Arva, up in Parry Sound. Oshawa was where Wren Blair, a G.M. in the Bruins system, planted him and where the Eagle got his hooks in.
But Arva died in 2000 and Doug in '07, both in winter, and when Orr took the microphone that night, his voice quavered and his eyes filled. "I know my, uh, mom and dad are watching tonight," he said. "I know they're very, very happy ... very proud. My mom and dad were the perfect minor hockey parents. Their whole philosophy was, Look, go out and play, have fun, and let's see what happens. And I wish there were more parents that thought like that when it came to their kids playing hockey...." And the standing crowd cheered the dig at hockey parents gone wild, cheered how things used to be.
Yet as much as he doesn't like being called an agent—"He'd rather it be, 'family representative,'" Sinden says—that's what Orr is. He famously never put either of his sons on skates, but he has his oldest, Darren, 34, working for The Orr Group in Boston. Bobby Orr is now part of the machinery of parents, media, teams and agents dedicated to finding the next Bobby Orr.
In January, Orr returned to Oshawa to coach against Cherry in the 2009 Top Prospects Game, the annual showcase for top junior talent. It was Orr's 10th appearance; he took part in the inaugural event in 1996 as a celebrity, but once he became a player rep, competing agents cried conflict of interest—he would, after all, be coaching a game designed to help determine draft order, salaries and the size of an agent's commission. Orr offered to withdraw. Organizers wouldn't hear of it.
On the morning of this year's game Orr and his team of prospects posed for the traditional team photo. Afterward, the coaches and players scattered to the locker room, leaving their chairs and platforms and mess behind. Orr didn't say a word. He grabbed two chairs and skated them off the ice. Then he went back for a riser, bent over, and shoved it slowly to one end of the empty rink: wrong door. He wheeled and shoved it the length of the ice again, leaving it at the right one so the arena crew would have a bit less work.
The players returned after a few minutes and began circling the ice counterclockwise. Orr joined in, dipping into the flow and skating hard again, reversing time if only for a few laps. Cherry hadn't seen Orr on the ice pain-free in 35 years. "Before, it was push and glide, really sad to see," he said. "Now? You would never know."
Orr gathered up a puck and wristed it low into the empty goal, making the net shiver. He stopped, began feeding all the young men as they swooped past, clockwise now: Foligno, Holland, de Haan, Tavares, O'Reilly. He tapped gloves with one, cracked a joke with another. Now Eakin, McNabb, Roussel flashed past, and now Schenn, and Orr motioned with his stick, and Schenn passed back the puck, maybe three inches wide. "Hey!" Orr snapped, and banged his stick on the ice to say, right here, and Schenn got closer with the next one. Orr gave him a grin.