“If people would just think what all these young kids go through, with all the people in their ears. Or they go on the Internet and there are haters on the Internet. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s what their moms and dads have to understand. There’s negative stuff and now they go with dad, and there’s negative stuff from their dads and what the hell does that do for the kid? Let’s be positive with these kids.”
Nowadays, Orr’s greatest visibility is tied for a series of television commercials he does the Chevrolet Safe & Fun hockey program. Making hockey safer and keeping hockey fun are two goals that fuel Orr’s passions these days.
“When we talk about minor sports, we’re talking about games being played by our children,” said Orr. “Everything we can do it to make it safe and fun for our kids, we should be doing. I tell people: the chances of your son becoming the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky are slim and none. If it happens, just look at it as a big bonus. If it were easy to play in the NHL, everyone would be there. It’s not an easy goal to reach – and parents have to understand that.
“When I go to an event and there are a bunch of older people around, I ask them: ‘Why do you play old-timers hockey?’ They say, ‘to have fun.’ I say, ‘Really. OK, then why can’t every kid playing minor hockey or minor baseball or minor soccer be having fun every time he or she goes out to play?’ That should be our goal.
“I look back at my minor hockey days and those are my fondest memories – playing with my buddies. My dad’s advice to me was, ‘go out and have fun and see what happens’ – and that’s the way it should be.
“It’s not just an issue for parents either, but for the people who coach our kids too. Coaches can teach kids a lot. They can teach them about working together – be disciplined. Be a good person. Learn to say thank you. Develop values that you can apply to anything you do in the future – that’s what it should be about. Yeah, you want them to teach them the fundamentals, and how to compete and so on, but you’re trying to develop better people … who leave that sport, with it being a great memory.
“One thing we forget is, not only are we trying to develop players, but we’re also trying to develop fans. We want kids that are playing the game to want to go to our games. But if a kid has a bad experience, he’s not going to ask his dad to take him to a hockey game – or if he’s playing for a coach who’s an idiot or a parent that’s a fool. All they’re doing is driving the kids away – and that’s wrong. We don’t need that.”
The proof of Orr’s lasting legacy may be in the fact that he hasn’t played since the 1978-79 season and yet he is remains one of the most recognized people in the game – by all generations, not just his peer group.
“It’s nice,” said Orr. “The support I received and continue to receive is really wonderful. But I haven’t gone away. I’m still out there a lot, with the commercials and all the rest. I don’t hide away. I get parents who send their kids to get an autograph and they say, ‘why?’ Not everyone recognizes me. When I’m on the ice with the kids, I don’t expect them to know me, but before I leave there, I have fun with them and I hope that I’m their friend, even if it’s their mom or dad or their grandparents telling them I was a hockey player. It’s been great.
“I really didn’t think about this birthday until you called me, but it really doesn’t bother me. Look, my son is going to be 40 for gawd sakes. I’m thinking, oh geez, ‘I’ve got a 40-year-old.’ But I also have two little grandchildren now, a boy and a girl.
“Life is wonderful.”