Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe treads where few would dare go with his latest article for the Boston paper. Dupont risks the wrath of many as he suggests that Raymond Bourque, former Bruin and newest member of the Hockey Hall of Fame may be the better of Boston’s two highest profile defencemen.
Comparing the two beatified Bruins takes a lot of courage, each has his own den of fans, each holds a special place in Bruin lore. Dupont tries to base his case on statistics, suggesting that Orr had the opportunity to pad his numbers at the expense of palookas from Minnesota, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, comparing the line ups offered to the hockey gods of the day as nothing but tomato cans waiting to be crushed. Add with the arrival of the WHA, Dupont suggests the points were there for the taking. Of course many will counter that argument by pointing out that Bourque plied his trade in an NHL expanded many times over, the whiskey watered down year after year, during his patrol of the Bruin blue line.
Mr. Dupont also states that Orr’s Bruins were a much stronger team than the one that Bourque was saddled with, Orr skating with the likes of Espositio, Bucyk, McKenzie, Cashman, Hodge and Cheevers to name a few. Bourque’s days significantly filled with interchangeable talent with the notable exceptions such as Cam Neely and Adam Oates. A valid point no doubt, much of Bourque’s time in Boston was spent on teams that seemed to have no desire to improve their standing, nor challenge for the Stanley Cup.
But in the end the fans of Orr will point out that not only did number four rack up the points, show leadership and lead the Bruins on to great glory. He also changed the game, the rushing defenceman of the eighties through the nineties and to this day all can trace their ascension to the talents of Orr.
There are hundreds if not thousands of defencemen who watched in wonder as Orr wound it up in his own end and took the puck from end to end normally finishing off in a flourish and a flashing red light.
His heart and desire was surpassed by only his pure talent. He defined all that was great about hockey in the late sixties and through the seventies, his career ending far too soon, robbing millions of hockey fans of one of the great talents of the game in the prime of his career.
I admire Ray Bourque consider him to be one of the best defencemen to ever put on skates and chase a puck down the ice. But Orr defined the game, made the game his own and will forever be known as the best to ever ply his trade on a blue line. There were many to follow him that surely starred, but never eclipsed. With respect to Mr. Dupont and his carefully crafted dissection of the two talented B’s, but I’ll cast my vote for Number 4.
I’ll respect Ray Bourque for the true talent that he was, a bona fide all star, deserved Hall of Fame member and one of the most impressive defenceman to ever pull on a pair of skates. But I’ll cherish the nights gone past where I sat in front of a television set and watched in awe a guy named Bobby weave his magic on the ice. Orr revolutionized a position, giving fuel to the explosion that would follow in offensive defencemen. For my book there never was and maybe never will be anyone of his equal.
His short time in an NHL line up gave us an indication just how exciting one person can be to a game. Like Gretzky, Lemieux, The Rocket and Lafleur there was something about him on the ice that made you watch with wonder. The mark of greatness is the company you keep; Orr’s place is forever placed on the same list as the greats. And that’s more than good enough for me!