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Dan Shaughnessy

Black and Gold rush

Orr enjoyed four-star performance

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / May 29, 2011

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He sounded no different than a million other Bruins fans who called talk shows and friends yesterday.

“Last night was a hell of a game. Unbelievable. A great game like that with no penalties? They let the players play. How many people were sitting in that third period? Is there another city in the country that has this? No way. Look at the championships. For one city to have this number of championship teams is incredible.’’ Standard stuff, right. You heard from everybody in town the day after the Bruins’ epic Game 7 win over Tampa Bay. But this was not just another yahoo talking. This was Bobby Orr, the greatest Bruin of them all — the man who ignited the Hub hockey craze that spawned two Stanley Cups and a million memories back in the 1970s.

When the Celtics get to the NBA Finals in this century, we look for Bill Russell. When the Red Sox make it to the World Series, we watch Carl Yastrzemski throw out the first pitch. And now that the Bruins are back in the Cup finals for the first time in 21 years, we go to No. 4.

“I think it’s wonderful,’’ said Orr, who lives locally and watched Boston’s epic game from his home. “The other teams in the city have been doing so well, winning championships.

“To see the Bruins in there warms my heart. It really does. They played great. It’s great to see Cam [Neely] and his crew put all the pieces together. They did a hell of a job and I think it’s great.

“I’m a sports fan here in Boston and it’s already great to see the teams do well and win championships and be the talk of the town. The Bruins have been beat up a little bit and it took a while. But to see this happening now is great.

“I see a lot of the players from the other [Boston] teams there and I know a lot of them like hockey because they’re attending.’’

What about the long-suffering Bruins fans who never fail to tell Bobby how much he changed their lives in the early 1970s?

“They’re loyal and knowledgeable,’’ said Orr. “They expect an honest effort. If you don’t give them that honest effort, they can be tough, but they’re very knowledgeable and supportive. They die with the players, they really do.

“I can remember when we were playing, we were very close to our fans; I think that’s happening now. They’re loving their team. I played golf this morning and the Bruins hats are out. Kids are wearing Bruins T-shirts. A guy was asking me, ‘What was it like? What was the highlight?’ On and on and on. It’s great.

“I’m so happy for all the players. They’ve put a nice group together and the guys that are supposed to be scoring are scoring and the guys that defend are defending. It’s great to see.

“When you get to playoff time, I don’t care what sport it is, when it’s over, a lot of players are physically hurting. They’re sticking it out. They’re paying the price. And to win, you have to pay a price.

“When this is over, I’m sure we’ll hear that guys are hurting, and if this were the regular season, some of them wouldn’t be playing.’’

Orr was only 22 when he put the puck in the net, then flew through the air, to win the Stanley Cup in 1970. Today there is a statue of Orr’s moment in front of the west entrance of the New Garden. Was Orr too young to appreciate the magnitude when it happened?

“No, not at all,’’ he said. “When you were growing up, your goal was to play in the NHL and be on a Stanley Cup team. I appreciated everything then, a whole lot.

“I’ve signed a lot of those pictures over the years. I can’t even count. But I don’t get tired of seeing it. I’m honored by the statue. It was nice for the Bruins to do that. It was a great time for everybody, not only the players, but the city of Boston.’’

There were no Duck Boats in 1970.

“We gathered at the Garden and had a parade,’’ said Orr. “We left the Garden and went down Storrow and came up to City Hall. It was unbelievable. We had our fathers in it.

“If the Bruins win this, there’s going to be a hell of a celebration. This is a great sports city, and now after 20 years, to have the Bruins in it is great. I’ve watched the other teams in their Duck Boats and I think that’s a great way to honor the players and to celebrate.’’

Can Boston recapture the hockey fever of the ’70s?

“I think it can. I do. I mean, this is it. The fans are getting to know their guys. I really think it can. And I think it’s going to be a hell of a series.’’

The Cup finals start Wednesday night in Vancouver. The Canucks are attempting to become the first Canadian team in 18 years to win a Stanley Cup.

“To have a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup finals is huge,’’ said Orr. “But there are a lot of Bruins fans in Canada. Big-time. I don’t mind the Bruins going in as underdogs. None of these games is going to be high-scoring, I don’t think.’’

In the early days of the Ted Williams Tunnel, it was exclusive to cabs and commercial vehicles. Private vehicles were ticketed if they were caught in the tunnel. I told Ted Williams that one of my goals was to pick him up at Logan, drive him through the Ted Williams tunnel, get pulled over by the police, and say, “Oh yeah? Well, guess who I have with me here in the front seat, officer.’’

Ted liked that one, but he said, “They probably wouldn’t know who the hell I am.’’

In this spirit, I asked Orr if he’d meet me at his statue outside the Garden before Game 3.

“No way,’’ he said. “I’ve driven by the statue a few times, but I wouldn’t meet you there.’’

Still, it would be pretty cool. How many people get to do that? Imagine arranging to connect with a friend before a big game and being able to say, “Meet me at my statue at 6:30.’’

If you’re Bobby Orr, you could say that.

But you would not say it.

Because you are Bobby Orr.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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