The Goal im­mor­tal­ized

FO­CUS ON: NHL HIS­TORY Bru­ins to un­veil statue of Bobby Orr’s Cup-win­ning goal to­day


OT­TAWA – Like the man him­self, the statue will be larger than life. To­day in Bos­ton, a bronze Bobby Orr will be un­veiled, 110 per cent the di­men­sions of Orr in the flesh, but a heavy­weight – a 250-kilo­gram sculp­ture de­pict­ing the air­borne No. 4 af­ter he scored THE GOAL on May 10, 1970 to cap­ture the Stan­ley Cup for the Bos­ton Bru­ins.

Now there’s a no­tion to ter­rify any goal­tender alive or dead: a 600-pound Orr fly­ing past the goal crease.

Forty years later, the im­age en­dures – Orr in full flight af­ter beat­ing St. Louis Blues goal­tender Glenn Hall – cap­tur­ing for all time the essence, the power and el­e­gance, of the su­per­star defenceman.

Oh, how the im­age en­dures, with or with­out the sculp­ture by Harry We­ber, who also bronzed Doug Flu­tie’s Hail Mary pass.

Google Orr or Bru­ins his­tory and Fly­ing Bobby pops up on com­mand, usu­ally in black and white. How sweet it is that long be­fore YouTube and 24/7 sports net­works, be­fore high def­i­ni­tion and dig­i­tal technology, a sim­ple still pho­to­graph, part of a se­ries of com­pelling pho­tos, would be­come hockey’s most fa­mous im­age.

There is irony, too, in the con­text, be­cause the dra­matic pho­to­graph was hardly drawn from one of hockey’s most dra­matic sce­nar­ios. Yes, it was an over­time play­off game, but as Hall, the bril­liant Hall of Fame goal­tender, rightly points out, this was not a Game 7 Cup fi­nal, nor even a com­pet­i­tive se­ries.

It was Game 4 of a one-sided fi­nal dur­ing hockey’s dif­fi­cult early days of ex­pan­sion, com­plet­ing a sweep by the Bru­ins over a Blues ros­ter cob­bled to­gether from the mea­gre ex­pan­sion pick­ings of 1967. The NHL, re­mem­ber, dou­bled in size to 12 teams from six, be­fore ex­pand­ing fur­ther.

“Teams didn’t give them much, old play­ers and young kids,” said Hall, speak­ing by phone from his farm in Stony Plain, Alta.

Hall was 38 at the time of the se­ries against Bos­ton, earn­ing a ca­reer-high $65,000 salary, still quick, for­mi­da­ble, though past the prime of his body of work with the Chicago Black­hawks and Detroit Red Wings.

With the Blues, Hall was sur­rounded by such jour­ney­men as Jim Roberts, Terry Crisp and Larry Keenan, as well as tough stal­warts like the Plager broth­ers, Bob and Bar­clay, and An­dré Boudrias. Red Beren­son was the Blues top for­ward.

On the other bench were the glam­our boys, es­tab­lished stars such as Orr, Phil Es­pos­ito, Ken Hodge, John Bucyk and Derek San­der­son.

“But St. Louis rep­re­sented the ex- pan­sion teams well,” Hall said, cit­ing the own­er­ship of the Solomon broth­ers, the man­age­ment of Lynn Pa­trick and the coach­ing of a young Scotty Bow­man.

The Blues rep­re­sented ex­pan­sion so “well” they were in the Cup fi­nal for three straight years, from 1968 through 1970, al­though never a threat to win. St. Louis was swept in all three fi­nals, twice by the Cana­di­ens and then by the Bru­ins.

By 1970-71, the NHL al­tered its play­off for­mat such that the newer teams were not as­sured of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the fi­nal, the di­vi­sions were changed, and east and west teams met in ear­lier play­off rounds.

But on May 10, 1970, as Game 4 headed to an un­likely over­time, the Bru­ins were look­ing to avoid em­bar­rass­ment as much as they wanted to win. Bos­ton had outscored St. Louis 12-4 through the first three games. Now, the Blues were on the verge of win­ning their first Cup fi­nal game af­ter 11 straight de­feats?

That sim­ply was not on for the Bru­ins.

On a steamy hot Mother’s Day af­ter­noon in Bos­ton, a Gar­den party crowd of 14,835, in­clud­ing stand­ing room, was ready to ex­plode. And not be­cause the air was heavy enough to drink.

For 29 years, Bos­ton hockey fans had been build­ing up to this moment – the Bru­ins hadn’t won the Cup since 1941 – and they were damned if they weren’t go­ing to cel­e­brate this one at home.

“I can imag­ine what the play­ers in the Bos­ton dress­ing room were say­ing,” Hall said. “ ‘We can’t get beat by an ex­pan­sion team.’ They came out fly­ing in the over­time – they didn’t want to go back to St. Louis.”

The play lead­ing to the win­ning goal was sim­ple enough. At the Blues blue line, Orr kept the puck in, spoil­ing a po­ten­tial two-on-one the other di­rec­tion, knock­ing the puck into the corner for Derek San­der­son. The moment Orr pitched the puck he was in mo­tion, driv­ing to the net with his clas­si­cally fluid strides, look­ing to com­plete the give-and-go with San­der­son, the play­boy cen­tre. Hall read the play, us­ing his goal stick to try to block the cen­tring pass, but missed, and now the puck was on Orr’s stick.

As he shifted left to right to face Orr, Hall led with his right skate, forc­ing his pads open slightly. Orr sur­prised him with a quick shot be­tween the pads. Over­time had lasted 40 sec­onds. “I didn’t think he’d go five-hole,” Hall re­called. “Qual­ity play­ers usu­ally deked you and he was a qual­ity player.”

“I was re­ally just try­ing to get the puck on net,” Orr said later. “I looked back, and I saw it go in, so I jumped. Then Noel Pi­card helped a lit­tle by lift­ing his stick un­der my skate.”

Pi­card knew he was late to the party, and as Orr jumped for joy, a frus­trated Pi­card tucked the blade of his stick un­der Orr’s left foot and yanked. The com­bi­na­tion of Orr’s leap and Pi­card’s boost launched Orr sky­ward, so high his left skate and out­stretched gloves rise above the cross­bar in some of the pre­cious pho­tos.

With­out the launch, and if it were any­one but Orr, the im­age, the goal it­self, would not have res­onated as it did. As Orr’s de­fence part­ner, the jour­ney­man Don Awrey said after­ward, in un­der­state­ment: “I don’t think it would have be­come as fa­mous if I had scored the goal.”

All the play­ers in the frames of the pic­tures – San­der­son, Orr, Hall, Pi­card, Wayne Car­leton, Jean-Guy Talbot – have signed copies of the prints a thou­sand times over. The los­ing Blues are good-na­tured about the end­less at­ten­tion, al­though Hall im­plies the hype is a lit­tle over­done.

In 1996, Hall and Orr were hon­orary cap­tains at the NHL All-Star Game, and nat­u­rally they were coaxed into au­to­graph­ing an­other few dozen im­ages of the Fly­ing Bobby goal. Hall took the op­por­tu­nity to tease Orr.

“Is that the only goal you ever scored?” Hall said.

“I got a cou­ple of oth­ers in prac­tice,” Orr replied.

Over time, the im­age of a 22-yearold Orr in full bloom – full flight – has grown in sig­nif­i­cance be­cause it so beau­ti­fully cap­tures the won­der of Orr be­fore in­juries and knee surg­eries cut him down from the clouds.

In the big pic­ture, Orr’s ca­reer some­times seems as fleet­ing as the click of a cam­era shut­ter, and so we trea­sure the im­age of him soar­ing like a bird, how­ever briefly.


Bru­ins’ Bobby Orr goes air­borne af­ter his fa­mous goal in the 1970 Stan­ley Cup fi­nal against the St. Louis Blues.

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