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Orr statue unveiled: In flight forever

by John McGourty
BOSTON -- Under a clear blue sky on a cool spring afternoon, in the shadow of TD Garden and in front of thousands of adoring fans, friends and family, Bobby Orr unveiled the 800-pound bronze statue commemorating his famous overtime goal against the St. Louis Blues that gave the Boston Bruins the 1970 Stanley Cup 40 years ago Monday.

The ultimate team player, Orr was thrilled to learn that base of the statue bears a replica of that section of the Stanley Cup that bears the names of all his teammates, coaches and team officials.

"There is nothing more valuable in life than the love and support from friends and family," Orr said. "That makes me the richest man in the world."

The statue stands at the west end of TD Garden, about 20 yards from Causeway Street, which Harry Sinden, the coach of the 1970 Bruins and later general manager and president of the team, suggested to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino be renamed "Bobby Orr Place."

Orr was joined by former teammates Johnny Bucyk, Derek Sanderson, Ken Hodge Sr., Johnny "Pie" McKenzie, Don Marcotte and Gary Doak. Orr gave special thanks to Kathy Bailey, the widow of Garnet "Ace" Bailey who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

"'Ace' was a special guy and so important to our team," Orr told Kathy Bailey from the stage.

Orr also interrupted TD Garden President John Wentzell when he overlooked Doak during introductions. Wentzell apologized for overlooking Doak, Orr's defensive partner in his early years with the Bruins.

Orr also thanked Boston Red Sox players David Ortiz and Tim Wakefield for attending. Joining Orr and Wentzell on the dais were Sinden, Menino, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and sculptor Harry Weber. Wentzell praised Weber's work, saying "we couldn't have picked a better artist." Wentzell also praised Dan Flynn, whose idea it was to commission the statue.

Weber, ironically a St. Louis native, has done many sports-figure statues, including one of Doug Flutie that stands outside Alumni Field at Boston College. Flynn was a classmate of Flutie's and suggested the Orr statue be done by Weber, who recalled watching the 1970 game.

"This is the biggest honor I think I've ever had," Weber said. "Not only for the guy and the moment, but also the wonderful human being that Bobby Orr is. Everyone over the age of 40 claims to have been there when the goal was scored. In that respect, it's kind of like a two-second Woodstock. Everybody was there and everybody wants to tell their kids what it was like. If all those claims were true, the old Garden must have seated about a half a million. I saw it ... on TV.

"I've had many commissions to honor sports and historical figures and this one is unique. It was meant to represent a hero whose stature in his sports is unmatched. But it also had to capture a specific moment in hockey history, a moment that won the Stanley Cup and defined the pinnacle of the entire sport of hockey. I had the help of Ray Lussier's famous photo, films, stills of Bobby, and the advice of hockey historian Bob Vitt to get all the details right. You can check them. Even the laces are placed the way he did, from the skates all the way to the blade of the stick and the way Bobby taped it that night."

"The process of making a bronze statue hasn't changed much in 2,000 years," Weber added. "It's one thing to make a metal figure stand up. It's another thing to make it fly through the air. This statue required cantilevering about 1,000 pounds of Bobby out on the toe of his right foot."

Sinden recalled some dressing-room dissension about starting overtime with the checking line of Sanderson, Ed Westfall and Wayne "Swoop" Carleton with Orr and defenseman Don Awrey. Sinden said he wanted to prevent a Blues' score in the first 40 seconds and the checkers "scored in 40 seconds. We lucked out. We were watching, once more, the ultimate risk-reward player that ever played the game."

Orr cheated down the wing and took a pass from Sanderson and beat Blues goalie Glenn Hall and immediately was tripped by Blues defenseman Noel Picard, which launched him into the famous flight.

"My first concern was who is covering his position," Sinden recalled. "Westfall took his position. We had a bit of a delayed reaction and the next thing I knew the entire team was gone over the boards and euphoria followed."

Sanderson introduced Orr after calling that team "the greatest hockey team that ever played the sport." He said Bruins fans "are the greatest fans on the planet" and that he played for the "greatest coach who has ever been behind the bench."

"We also had the greatest player who ever played," Sanderson said.

Orr then praised the work of current Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli and wished the team well in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers Monday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, TSN2, NESN, CSN-PH). The Bruins lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1.

Orr thanked his wife, Peg, but choked up when he mentioned his mother and father, remembering that the 1970 Stanley Cup was won on Mother's Day. He also mentioned key members of those teams who had since died -- Tom Johnson, team owner Weston Adams, trainer Frosty Forrestal and Bailey.

"If my parents were here today, my mother would be saying, 'Isn't that nice,' and my dad would be having a photo session right here," Orr joked.

Orr credited 92-year-old former Bruins General Manager Milt Schmidt for making the trade that brought Phil Esposito, Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Blackhawks.

"When I arrived here from Parry Sound, Ontario, I really didn't understand what the Bruins meant to the citizens of Boston and all of New England. Neither did I realize how completely our fans would embrace us once we became part of the Bruins' family. And that reaction from all of our wonderful fans, their loyalty and support, made playing for the Bruins very, very special."
-- Bobby Orr

"It was so much fun playing for you," Orr said to the greatest Bruins player to precede him. "'Uncle Miltie' made the deal that put us over the top."

Knee injuries limited Orr to 10 seasons with the Bruins and parts of two seasons with the Blackhawks. He had 270 goals and 915 points in 657 regular-season games and 26 goals and 92 points in 74 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He won the Norris Trophy eight times, the Art Ross Trophy twice, three Hart Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Calder Memorial Trophy.

Orr also led the Bruins to the 1972 Stanley Cup, coached by Johnson.

Orr spoke about his transition from teenage star hockey player to his iconic position in Boston's sports lore. Only Ted Williams rivals Orr in stature and fan adulation.

"When I arrived here from Parry Sound, Ontario, I really didn't understand what the Bruins meant to the citizens of Boston and all of New England," Orr said. "Neither did I realize how completely our fans would embrace us once we became part of the Bruins' family. And that reaction from all of our wonderful fans, their loyalty and support, made playing for the Bruins very, very special.

"The specific moment in time that we celebrate with the statue is something that we can all now nostalgically remember with fondness together each time we enter TD Garden. To all of you, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart."
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