Reading With the Roost: Searching For Bobby Orr

by Ryan

One of the major reasons I like our Reading With the Roost series is that it allows me to become a better fan through reading. No matter how much I might know about football or hockey right now, much of the history of these sports is lost on me, and unfortunantly so. Reading is one way to get closer to that history, and that’s one of the things I’ve tried to do with my book selections.

searchingforbobbyorrWith that in mind, Steven Brunt’s Searching For Bobby Orr was perfect. Not only did it tell the story of Orr’s hockey career, it provided great insight on not just the NHL but the sporting world as a whole while Orr laced them up.

Brunt’s work is not only about Orr but hockey as a whole. The work not only discusses what Orr accomplished on the ice, but his larger impact throughout the hockey world. What Brunt “searches” for is not only his own personal connection with Orr, but the true Bobby Orr himself. What the media has shown hockey fans over the years just might be different from the truth, and that’s something Brunt is sure to cover.

It was very interesting to read this after reading a work like Ken Dryden’s “The Game” because it covered many of the same topics with a slightly different spin. Dryden writes from his own perspective while discussing things like the Summit Series, the latter part of the Canadians dynasty, and playing great teams and players in some of hockey’s greatest buildings. Brunt’s work covers Montreal’s return to glory behind Dryden, the creation of the Summit Series, and the end of Orr’s short but magnificent career.

The two different stories are important because Dryden speaks from a player’s perspective, while Brunt speaks from the press box and the grandstands. No book will ever tell you the true story of hockey in that era, but hearing a few different points of view is one way to get you closer.

One of the things I really like about the book is that is is arranged very coherently. Orr’s career isn’t so much discussed chronologically but rather by topics, and so the years overlap throughout the course of the book. His personal life and marriage is discussed in one part, and then the next chapter might go all the way back to his second year in the league.

bobbyorr-boyslifeThis remains coherent through Brunt’s larger motive: to get as complete a picture of Bobby Orr as possible. Brunt does an excellent job of keeping the reader involved by alluding to the major events of Orr’s career as well. He assumes you know the Bruins win the Stanley Cup as well as “The Goal”, but he still provides suspense in his framing of the story.

One of the things I found really interesting was Orr’s relationship with Alan Eagleson, whihch I had no idea about prior to reading this. I really feel that the importance of Eagleson is lost on people like me, and that’s a shame. Orr’s contract at the time was a milestone in the sports business world, and it’s amazing to me that I wasn’t aware of this.

Perhaps this is based entirely on my own perspective, but reading the book made me a bit sad in some ways. People my age will never know Orr for much more than reputation and a few grainy YouTube videos, and that’s a shame. I think for readers that remember Orr’s playing days the book works just as well, but they are already let in on the secret.

Overall I was very impressed with “Searching for Bobby Orr”, and I think it’s almost necessary reading for hockey buffs. Brunt’s work proves that hockey history doesn’t have to be boring and predictable, and unlike another book we’ve read in this series the writing style didn’t become tiring.

I’d like to hear what you guys thought of the book, this was one that a number of people recommended. I’ll be sure to pass it along to the rest of the Roost as well.

2 Comments

  1. I loved this book for all the reasons you mentioned, Ryan. As someone whose hockey knowledge goes back about 12 years or so, I thought it was fascinating to read about the NHL when it was six teams that pretty much owned its players and how important Bobby Orr was to changing that system. Really, really amazing to see how far things have come in the last forty years or so.

    The book made me sad too because while they never really said what exactly was wrong with Orr’s knees, you have to wonder if it’s something that would have been much more easily repaired and rehabbed now. Probably. In that regard, he definitely played in the wrong era.

    Definitely a must-read for hockey fans IMO.

  2. I want to read that book- I already wanted to, it’s been on my list for a while- but after your post, I really need to! Maybe next time I get one of those sweet coupons from Borders, I’ll give it a whirl.

    If you’re looking for a good book about hockey history, may I recomment Putting A Roof on Winter by Michael McKinley? It’s an excellent read, really brings out the history of organized hockey in a way that brings all the characters to life and reads much more like a story than a history book. You may have already read it, but I always throw it out there because I really love it and have found it an invaluable resource as a hockey fan. 🙂

    Thanks for the review!