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FOREVER ELUSIVE
S.L. PRICE
June 17, 2011
HE IS FIERCELY PRIVATE, BUT EVEN AFTER FOUR DECADES THE FORCE OF HIS SINGULAR PRESENCE HAS NOT WANED
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June 17, 2011

Forever Elusive

HE IS FIERCELY PRIVATE, BUT EVEN AFTER FOUR DECADES THE FORCE OF HIS SINGULAR PRESENCE HAS NOT WANED

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For press and public, Eagleson's crime against Orr was best summed up by the pair's final contract negotiation with the Bruins in 1976. Boston offered a multiyear deal that included an 18.5% ownership stake in the team, worth an estimated $49 million today. Though Eagleson made that offer public, Orr insisted that he didn't know about it until years later and, more to the point, believed Eagleson when he said there was a better deal to be gotten with the Blackhawks—owned, it just so happened, by Eagleson's close friend Bill Wirtz. Such obliviousness seems unbelievable, but then Orr had known Eagleson for 15 years.

One day in the spring of '76, with negotiations at an impasse—Orr eventually would sign a five-year, $3 million contract with the Blackhawks, but injuries limited him to just 26 games in two seasons—Cherry was alone at one end of the Boston Garden dressing room, fixing a stick for his son, when he noticed Bruins president Paul Mooney walk in and approach Orr as he sat pedaling on an exercise bike. "Bobby, can I speak to you a minute?" Mooney said, puffing on a pipe.

"F--- off, Paul," Orr replied. "You're trying to drive a wedge between Al and I."

"Just let me talk to you for 30 seconds."

"F--- off. Don't talk to me."

Mooney shook his head and walked out.

"They were going to offer Bobby all that money, 18 percent," Cherry says. "Nope: 'F--- off.' That's how loyal he was to Eagleson."

Endorsement contracts and public relations work lifted Orr out of the financial ashes left by Eagleson, and in 1996, Orr bought into the Boston agency created by Bob Woolf. Orr drew a clear line: His agency would not handle—as Eagleson had—player finances.

Orr's role, though, was never about pen and paper. Then and now, he has traveled widely to take in college and pro games, bundled golf rounds with contacts in coaching and broadcasting, used his stature to gain an entrée denied rival agents. He often showed up unannounced at the Maple Leafs' offices when Pat Quinn, his old sparring partner, was coach and general manager from 1998 to 2006. Quinn usually didn't deal with player reps, but he always welcomed Orr. Eventually talk would turn to a client like defenseman Tomas Kaberle [then with the Leafs and now with the Bruins], and Quinn says Orr would "get to where he wanted to go. And it was always about the kid, about his best interest."

Orr's loyalty to the faithful is just as fierce. If he has refused to donate signed pictures or gear to a desperate fan, or refused a charity golf tournament or hospital visit, no one has heard of it. In 2006 a story ran in The Boston Globe about a high school hockey player, Bill Langan, who played in a regional title game on the day of his mother's wake; the kid mentioned that his mother used to watch Orr play. Orr called, asked if he could help. Langan asked him to come to a team dinner. Orr made no promises. But he showed up without warning and stayed an hour.

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