In 1969--70 Orr became the only player to sweep the league's top awards—MVP, Norris, playoff MVP and scoring title—and capped it by scoring the Stanley Cup--winning goal over St. Louis in overtime. It's no accident that this signature play was a give-and-go. The following season the Bruins scored 124 more even-strength or shorthanded goals than they gave up when Orr was on the ice, and that remains his most lasting monument; the man most mentioned as Orr's rival for the title of greatest ever, Wayne Gretzky, never cracked +100.
LORD, DO THEY REMEMBER. FOR HARD MEN OF A certain age, and for Canadians, especially, the mere mention of Orr can undam a rush of feeling. "Guys make fun of me because I'm always talking about him," says Cherry, whose second life as a hockey broadcaster gives him plenty of opportunity. "My son made [an Orr highlight] tape to Carly Simon—Nobody Does It Better—and I cry every time I see it. I don't know why."
When it came time to defend a teammate or himself, Orr fought. Gladly. "Too much," Esposito says. "He didn't have to, but he had a temper." The fact is that despite his schoolboy haircut and shy grin, Orr was a killer on the ice. He laid out the Blackhawks' Stan Mikita with a perfect forearm cheap shot, hammered the hell out of Mikita's teammate Keith Magnuson at every opportunity, waited a year to get his revenge on Toronto's Pat Quinn—Orr jumped him in a brawl—after Quinn knocked him unconscious with a riot-sparking hit in the 1969 playoffs.
"Pound for pound he might've been the toughest guy in the game," Quinn says. A game-changing talent, a taste for blood: Those were enough to make Orr a hockey hero for life. But vulnerability is what makes him resonate still. A TV ad from 2008 shows Orr sitting silently while a lengthening scar on his famous left knee serves as a time line of victory, and loss; he played, really, only eight full seasons, and operations on both knees left him a near cripple at 30. His last hurrah, the 1976 Canada Cup series, provided the perfect, bittersweet coda: Orr in so much pain that he couldn't practice, beating the Soviets on one leg, outplaying the Czechs single-handedly, "the most courageous that I've ever seen a hockey player," says Clarke, the captain. Hockey nation didn't disagree.
IF ORR IS HOW A CERTAIN SEGMENT OF CANADIANS want to see themselves—self-effacing, self-sacrificing, quietly great—there's a glint of recognition, too, in what lies beneath the forced politeness, the goofy charm. In any conversation there's a tension that never leaves Orr, the feeling that his spring-loaded temper might snap and turn the warmest banter to ice. Cherry has felt more than one freeze-out as Orr's coach in the 1970s and even after the two battled as celebrity coaches in the annual Top Prospects Game a few years ago. That time Orr didn't speak to him for six months. "Great heart, but he hates pretty good," Cherry says, and when asked how Orr was to coach, he pauses.
"I got to be careful here," he says finally. "You had to handle him right. You had to know when to talk to him; he was not an easy guy. He didn't like any bull----, and you know what? He's exactly like that today. He's pretty unforgiving. If you cross him, you will never get the chance to cross him again."
Alan Eagleson, his onetime agent, crossed him the worst, of course, exposing a weakness as damaging as any knee injury. Once the cocky and highflying master of the hockey universe, an irresistible force who rode Orr's celebrity into a multihatted—and conflict-ridden—position as executive director of the NHL Players' Association, hockey's most powerful agent and chairman of Hockey Canada's international committee, Eagleson would be accused of pilfering money from player pension funds and disability payments, and in 1998 he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud, including those involving the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Canada Cup proceeds. He served six months in a Toronto jail, was disbarred and got kicked out of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
In '90, Orr told a Canadian newspaper in detail how, in blindly following Eagleson's tangled financial advice, he had ended up with just $450,000 in assets—and tax bills that wiped him out. He had his homes in Boston, Cape Cod and Florida and a name to sell but a wife, Peggy, and two sons, Darren and Brent, to support. And the money was gone.