Bobby Orr, Property of Pittsburgh Penguins

PenguinsHistory

By Greg Enright

bobby_orrLegendary defensemen Bobby Orr wore the black and gold of the Boston Bruins from 1966 to 1976, but for two days in 1980 the great Number 4 donned a different kind of black and gold – that of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Orr was invited to the Pens’ training camp by recently hired head coach Eddie Johnston, who had played with the great defenseman in Boston. They had won two Stanley Cups together while Orr was in the prime of a career that saw him win eight consecutive Norris trophies as the league’s best defenseman and revolutionize the defense position. The only things that could stop him were his own knees, with six surgeries forcing a premature retirement at age 30.

Orr said he was at the Pens camp to “rub shoulders with the guys” adding with typical humility that he had “no secrets” to impart to the players.

Orr took to the ice in a yellow sweatshirt adorned with a Penguins logo and the wording “Property of Pittsburgh Penguins” emblazoned across the front. Mainly working with the Pittsburgh defense corps, Orr helped out with drills, took shots on the goalies and provided a whole whack of inspiration to a young club looking to find a winning identity.

“He was going better than anyone on the ice,” said Johnston after Orr’s second day. “He’s shooting and the goaltenders are trying to get set for it and before they can, the puck is by them.”

The players were awed by the presence of such a hockey deity, who joked and posed for pictures with them. “I just wish I could do what he could do,” said defenseman Mario Faubert. “He can still skate circles around people. Around me, anyway.”

Orr had kind words to say about the team he’d worked with. “These kids can skate and have lots of speed. Now, I’m not saying they’re going to win the Stanley Cup this year, but the material is here to do it in a couple of years.”

Orr was right: the Penguins didn’t win the Cup that year, but perhaps his presence did help inspire Randy Carlyle, who that year won the Norris Trophy – still the only Penguin to do so.

Greg Enright is a writer, editor and diehard Pens fan since 1977. Follow him on Twitter @penguinshistory.