October 21, 2013

Sports Illustrated's Number Four Bobby Orr

There has been much hullabaloo over the past numbers of days about the release of Bobby Orr's autobiography, Orr My Story. But it is not the only new book on Orr to be hitting store shelves this month.

In 2012 Sports Illustrated released an interesting collection of magazine articles over the years on Wayne Gretzky. In 2013 they follow the blueprint with Number Four Bobby Orr

Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

Starting with his jump from the Oshawa Generals to the NHL's Boston Bruins, Sports Illustrated began in-depth coverage of the career of Bobby Orr, a player who remains, over thirty years after his retirement, one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

Orr's autobiography may be the preferred choice for some, as it is his story as he tells it. However long time Bobby Orr observers know that Bobby is an incredibly private man who has been fiercely protective of his image. His own book will surprise no one as the squeaky clean story that he wants to continue into hockey folklore. And you certainly can't blame him for that.

However literature written from the outside perspective can often be the best reads, or certainly a must-read companion piece if only for comparative purposes. As they say, every story has three sides - in this case it would be his own, the outside story, and, somewhere in the middle, the truth.

The seminal hockey book on Bobby Orr will likely always be Stephen Brunt's 2007 masterpiece Searching For Bobby Orr. SI's Number Four Bobby Orr doesn't reach those lofty standards, but what it does do is offer a glimpse into the career and life of arguably hockey's greatest player in a much more in-the-moment fashion. There is no reflecting back on a career that has become legend. The best part about SI's approach is it a collection of stories written at different times of his career. It allows today's reader to get a better understanding of Orr right in each moment of his life.

Stories include Frank Deford's 1966 piece "A High Price for Fresh Northern Ice," which introduced Orr to SI audiences. There is several excellent pieces by Mark Mulvoy, SI's lead hockey writer through Orr's years. Jack Olsen, Gary Ronberg and Peter Gammons paint their own portraits, among others.

J.D. Reed covers Orr's departure from Boston, which, as we learned years later, was had quite a different truth to it (which is briefly covered in an afterword). That's the beauty of SI's Number Four Bobby Orr. An moment-by-moment intimate look at one of hockey's all time greats.

There is even S.L. Price's 2009 retrospective that rode on Brunt's coat-tails. And Michael Farber, in typical Michael Farber style, writes a wonderful foreword.

Orr completely transformed the way hockey was played, taking it from a game of grinding defence to a rushing, high-scoring affair. Along the way, Orr set scoring records, won individual awards, and led his Bruins to two Stanley Cups before a bad knee sidelined him far too prematurely.

Orr deserves to be a hot topic of hockey literature. SI's Number Four Bobby Orr offers a unique anthology that should be on every hockey fan's reading list.


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