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"Bobby Orr Gets Booed"

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 7:11 AM

It’s not a headline you see that often. But there it is. Written by Jim Proudfoot in the December 21, 1974 edition of the Toronto Star. The story tells how Orr, a kid from Parry Sound, Ontario, was booed relentlessly by fans at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The acrimony began in a playoff series between the Leafs and Bruins a few years before. Leafs defenceman Pat Quinn had laid a nasty hit on Orr and the reaction of Boston fans and players was predictably hostile. The next time Orr showed up in Toronto, the boo-birds were out in force. And so it went every time he played in Toronto.

Bobby Orr was only in his mid-twenties at that time. But even then he was a pro. At that level of sport, players understand how it works. Getting booed on the road is  a badge of honour. But this was something different. It was personal. His parents, Arva and Doug, would be in the building. 

Orr claimed to understand what the fans were doing, but it still didn’t sit well. After all, he couldn’t help the talent he’d been born with, or his work ethic, training schedule or the passion he had for the game. And if the Leafs had done things differently - if they’d been a team with better vision - they might’ve had a chance at drafting him. Instead, some Boston scouts who were up in Gananoque happened to notice Orr. The two other players they’d come up to see were soon forgotten, and they launched a full-out effort to make him a Bruin, which they did.

Leafs fans were bitter. They had reason to be. They were starting what would become a half-century cycle of losing, They needed someone to vent their anger at. And the sight of Bobby Orr, how good he was, just made them mad.