In any retrospective of Orr’s career, the question that unfailingly comes up is how good could he have been had all the new techniques involving knee surgery been around in the 1960s, when he first started to have his issues. It is a dangerous game to play – the what- if? game – and Orr won’t indulge, other than to acknowledge the obvious. Had doctors been able to repair his left knee arthroscopically rather than through the invasive surgeries of the 1960s, he would have unquestionably played longer and perhaps at an even higher level than he managed. But Orr is nothing but a bubbling cauldron of positivity and it comes through here too – noting that the technological improvements of the two past decades are “benefiting all of the old farts. The surgery today is much easier and much better. Back then, they’d open you up. That right away weakens your leg and your joints.”
Orr is in the process of putting the finishing touches on his biography and says the book would be about the things that matter most to him – the state of the game, from the NHL level on down.
Up to now, there have been other books written about Orr’s life and career, but this is the first time, he’s telling the story himself.
Orr promises this will not be a tell-all and it will certainly not be an expose of his relationship with his former player agent, Alan Eagleson, who represented him from the time he began his professional career until they parted ways in 1980, with Orr bankrupt at the end of his playing career. Nearly two decades after their split, Eagleson was convicted of fraud, embezzlement and racketeering in the United States and was eventually disbarred in Canada.
Question: After all this time, what made Orr finally venture down that path and become an author?
“I don’t know why I did it,” replied Orr, laughing again. “If anybody’s going to buy my book because they think there’s a lot of dirt in it, don’t buy it. It’s not going to be that. I’m talking about how I was brought up. I talk a lot about minor sports and parents. It’s not an autobiography. Obviously, I’ve got something in there about Mr. Eagleson – because they made me. If it were up to me alone, I wouldn’t have put anything in (about Eagleson), but they’re right, I have to put something in. I can assure you, I’m not going to go into the whole story either. That wasn’t going to take up the book, let me tell you.
“There are some times when I say, ‘why am I doing this?’ I didn’t want to do a book just to do a book. I want everybody to read it. Not everyone’s going to agree with what I say, but for everybody that reads it – my goal is that they’ll take something from it - one thing. I hope I make an impact, either with minor sports or where the game is at. I just hope that happens.”
Orr’s involvement in the game now is primarily as a player representative. In 1996, Orr helped start the hockey group in the Boston-based Woolf Associates agency, run by long-time Boston lawyer Bob Woolf and ultimately bought out the hockey group. In 2000, Rick Curran merged his agency with Orr’s and in 2002, it became incorporated as the Orr Hockey Group. Orr’s son Darren and Curran’s son Michael are both involved, as is former Toronto Maple Leafs executive Jeff Jackson. The changes since Orr’s early playing days until now are breath-taking. It is about labor, contracts, finance and social media – and every once in a while, they play a game and it briefly reverts back to ‘he shoots, he scores’ again.
“It’s really a changing world,” said Orr. “We work with young Connor McDavid. Think about the pressure. He’s 15 years old, for gawd’s sakes. He’s a hell of a talent, but are you kidding me? We’ve got the New York Times coming in to talk to him. We’ve got USA Today coming in. Nobody came to Parry Sound to talk to me. It’s really different today.