One of the greatest injustices in sports history is the fact that Bobby Orr was forced to retire at the age of 30, presumably leaving the better part of a decade of playing years on the table. Orr had no choice, of course, after knee injuries did him in.
That was in large part due to the way Orr played the game. He revolutionized the position of defenseman with his end-to-end rushes becoming a thing of legends. He set the table for blue liners who could skate, laying the foundation for players like Paul Coffey to be dynamic players. But that style of play came with a price, a price that included roughly 20 knee surgeries and ultimately ended Orr’s career far too soon.
Orr talked about that when sitting down with NBC’s Bob Costas recently, and he said that he unsurprisingly felt a little bit of regret and sorrow after being forced out of the game at such an early age.
“There was an emptiness,” Orr told Costas. “I wasn’t going crazy or anything, but I certainly missed it. Take your microphone from you, and … it bothers you. They took my skates from me and I was bothered. Financially, I wasn’t doing very well and I had to go back to work. I never looked at hockey as work. My God, work, what do I do? I soon learned that I could approach my business today the same way as I approached my game yesterday. And the most important thing is family, but it took me a while. I’m obviously fine today and things are going well with the grandchildren and we’re having a blast.”
The early retirement, which set off some uncertainty for Orr financially (his relationship with Alan Eagleson certainly played a part in that), also opened the door for No. 4 to spend more time with his family. He has embraced those opportunities to spend time with is family over the years but still regrets that he didn’t spend more time with his loved ones during his career.
“I’m father and a grandfather,” he said when asked if he saw himself as a hockey player more than anything else. “I watch my son with his two kids and no regrets, I probably just wish I spent more time with my kids, spent more time with them. We see each other a lot now and do a lot of things. I see my son with his kids and it’s pretty special to watch. Things have changed. We can use the excuse, ‘Oh we were working,’ but that’s hogwash. That’s your family. If I was gonna change anything, that would be the No. 1 major change.”
See and hear more from Orr in the video below.