BOSTON - Claude Julien grew up some 400 miles away from the old Boston Garden. But as an aspiring young defenseman on the outskirts of Ottawa, he always seemed to have his eyes trained on the Bruins - and one player in particular.
That's because, at the time, there was no better blue liner to model yourself after than Bobby Orr.
"As a young kid, he was my idol," Julien said Wednesday, which marked the 50th anniversary of Orr's first game with the Bruins.
Video: NJD@BOS: Orr and Schmidt drop the opening puck
"I played defense and I watched him play - never could ever come close to playing like him - but still he was my idol and I loved watching him play.
"No doubt, he's a legend. And what I liked about Bobby is he stayed in the game, he's still around, he's a great person. He's fun to be around and fun to talk to.
"A quality individual that not only excelled on the ice, but is now excelling off the ice."
Orr first pulled on the Spoked-B on October 19, 1966, during a home game against Gordie Howe and the Detroit Red Wings. The 18-year-old from Parry Sound, Ontario, had an assist in a 6-2 victory, which kicked off a storied and incomparable career.
Orr went on to score 264 goals with 624 assists in 631 games for Boston, while guiding the Bruins to Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972. His 888 points rank fifth in Bruins history.
And all these years later, it's clear that No. 4 is still revered in the Bruins dressing room - and across New England.
"That's just it. You're a kid and he's your idol and then you turn around and he's your friend," said Julien. "You're pretty lucky to be able to have that happen to you because it doesn't happen to too many people.
"I've been one of the fortunate ones that has known him for quite a long time, even when I was coaching junior we spent some time together."
Video: Claude Julien talks about Bobby Orr being his idol
Unlike Julien, Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes did grow up in Boston - albeit some two decades after Orr retired - and experienced firsthand the legacy Orr left behind.
"He's an icon in this city, he's a guy who has a statue," said the Dorchester native and former Boston College standout. "The city praises him and it's well deserved because the guy has tons of character and has been nothing but friendly towards me. He's always helped along the way.
"Growing up as a young kid, you always remember the [1970 Stanley Cup-clinching] goal that he scored. It's pretty cool being a young kid and pretending that you're diving through the crowd scoring that goal.
"He's been a huge hero to the city."
Orr was a transformative figure on the ice, with his speed and skill allowing him to accomplish things previously unheard of by a defenseman. His 139 points in 1970-71 is still a record for a defenseman.
"He changed the way [hockey] was played, the creativity and his ability to get up in the play, the dynamics of his game were special," said Bruins blue liner Torey Krug. "It's something we're seeing even more and more of in the NHL today.
"He's someone that I look up to and owe a lot to because without him there's probably not space in the league for guys like myself."
Krug admitted he finds himself taking a peek up at the rafters every once in a while to get a look at Orr's No. 4.
"I remember the first time I shook his hand in the locker room before a game, it was a special memory I have," said Krug. "He's an awesome person and always has a smile on his face."
Video: Orr and Schmidt speak on Bruins Opening Night
For fellow defenseman Adam McQuaid, there is little debate about where Orr stands in the pantheon of Bruins greats.
"With no disrespect - there's been so many great players - he's still the face of the franchise," said McQuaid. "I've been fortunate enough to get to know him a little bit.
"I think just his demeanor and how he carries himself…he is such a good example for any person, definitely any hockey player, but any person in general.
"He's the epitome of a Bruin."