After being born in Parry Sound, Ontario, Bobby Orr showed great talents for hockey from an early age; playing his first organized hockey game in 1953 when he was five years old. He soon proved to be faster then anybody else of his age, spending the first five years of his hockey career as a forward. It would be Wilfred "Bucko" Mcdonald, his coach and himself a former NHL player, that would decide to move Orr into a defensive role; but although he was a defenseman, Bucko still encouraged the young Orr to use his skills in stick handling, skating and scoring to make offensive rushes.
It would be the spring of 1961 that Orr's prowess would be noticed by the Boston Bruins after seeing him in a youth hockey tournament played in Gananoque, Ontario. Wren Blair, a member of the Bruins at the time, was particularly impressed by Orr, describing him as "a combination of Doug Harvey and Eddie Shore".
With Orr in their sights, the Bruins would proceed to sponsor the team in the fall of 1961, with Blair regularly visiting their home. By 1962, despite the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings all showing interest in Orr, he would sign with the Bruins.
After years of bumps in the road, Orr would finally play his first game in the NHL for the Bruins on October 19th, 1966, and would go on to become a staple of the Bruins for years afterward. Although injuries plagued his career, Orr would still go on to be the only defenceman in NHL history to win the Art Ross, and did it twice; once in the 1969-70 season, the second in the 1974-75 season.
He has also retained the record for the most Norris Trophy wins, having won the trophy a total of eight times in his career. In the 1969-70, 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons, Orr won the Hart Trophy and would later also obtain the Conn Smythe in the playoffs; he is still the only player to win four major NHL awards in a single season.
Perhaps Orr's most iconic feat is his leading of the Bruins through the playoffs in 1970, which culminated on May 10th with what is considered one of the most iconic moments in the history of hockey; the photo of Orr in midair, hands raised, taken right after it has become itself an incredibly iconic image, marking the completion of the Bruins' sweep of the St. Louis Blues.
But that proved to be merely the beginning of a period of dominant offense by the Bruins; in the 1971-72 season right afterwards, Orr finished second overall in points scored with 139, and set still-unbroken records for points in a season by a defenseman and for the plus-minus of a player in any position (a whopping +124). Orr's record of 102 assists would not be surpassed until nearly a decade later, when Wayne Gretzky totaled 109 points in the 1980-81 season.
Unfortunately for Orr, continual knee issues kept him from reaching much longer in his time as a player; after a brief stint with the Chicago Blackhawks in which he played only 26 games, Orr hung up the skates for good. Even after his retirement, however, Orr has remained an icon of the sport; very few players have managed to exceed Orr's average points per game, those being Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy; all of whom played as forwards, making Orr the defenseman with the highest points-per-game average in the league. He was then inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and his Boston jersey number was retired on January 9th, 1979.
Orr is perhaps best known for his popularization and command of the two-way game for defensemen; without him, the two-way defenseman may never have become so commonplace. Before Orr popularized the concept, defensemen with offensive ability were the exception to the norm in the NHL, with two notable examples being Red Kelly and Doug Harvey.