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When Bobby Orr (supposedly) scored twice on his own net against the Maple Leafs

It was, I believe, during the 1968-'69 (maybe ’69-’70, I’m just not sure) season that I recall the Bruins making one of their fairly “regular” Saturday night visits to play the Leafs at the old Gardens in Toronto.  Those were the early years of expansion, so they didn’t come to town seven times a year as they had in the past, but probably five, so it was still pretty often.

(The Bruins had been a struggling franchise for many years, and didn’t make the playoffs after the late ‘50s until 1967-’68—which basically coincided with the arrival of Bobby Orr, pictured at right, who made the jump to the pros in 1966-‘67.)

I watched this particular game and remember that the Leafs won, though I don’t remember the final score offhand.

What I remember is that the Leafs (who played the Bruins tough in Toronto in the late '60s, even as the Bruins got really good) scored a couple of fluky goals that night.   They took shots from around or behind the net, and they happened to bounce into the Boston net off Orr, who (if I remember the season correctly) would have already been a superstar in his third year in the league— and still only 20 years of age.

Often, at my high school on Mondays, I would, during lunch break, meander into the school library and check out the Globe & Mail sports section, to see what the beat reporter had to say about the Leafs game on Saturday night.  (Where I attended school, in Windsor, Ontario, we only had access the early edition, so there were no game results or stories from the Sunday night away game the Leafs had usually played the night before.  It was just fun to read comments and quotes about the Saturday game, especially if the Leafs had won.)

This particular Monday, I sat down to read about the Leaf win, and there was the headline that said, in effect “Leafs win; Orr scores twice in own net”.

Now c’mon.  If ever there was a misleading headline, that was it.  But it was the intent behind the headline that, even as a young man of probably 16, I found rather peculiar and slanted, not to mention inaccurate.  (Someone with better research skills than me can probably track down the actual headline.)

Clearly the headline writers (and the Leaf beat reporter, as I recall, in his story) made a point of focusing on the fact that Orr “scored on his own net”- twice, no less.

The fact that he was the best player on the ice, as he was in virtually any game he played, seemed to be beside the point.  There seemed to be a particular joy in essentially saying, “See, even the great Bobby Orr screws up”.  Fans say that sort of thing, just not usually the "objective" media.

It has always been and will always be, I guess, the media’s job to play up certain angles, and usually with a hometown angles, at least in the sports world.  (The Globe, of course, was—and is—a national newspaper.)  But the fact is, Orr didn’t screw up.  It’s not as if he skated the length of the ice toward his own goal and wristed it past his own goaltender.  In fact, he was, like any good defenseman, guarding the front of the net, and the puck happened to hit him and bounce in.  Twice. 

Not long ago I actually saw a fair bit of that very game on Leafs TV, one of those “classic” Maple Leaf games that are still shown from time to time.  It confirmed what I had long thought.  Orr was simply unlucky on those plays—hardly a goat.  He had indeed played an outstanding game, scored a goal, set up tons of plays and defended very well.

I was never an Orr fan, and hated him as part of the rival (and often dirty) Bruins.  He was a guy who always, it seemed, killed the Leafs.  I worried every time he was on the ice, which was often about 40 minutes a night.  At least that’s how it felt.

But he was the finest player I ever saw and when healthy, generally the best guy on the ice every night he played—regardless of what the Globe said on that Monday, forty years ago.


  1. I remember that game. I remember Father Cullen, our hockey coach, talking about it at a game a few days later. A puck had gone into the net off Rick Martinello's (our of our defensemen) leg. Father Cullen simply said "Remember what happened to Orr the other night? Forget about it. Get out there." That's what Orr always did best - he got out there.

  2. Orr played such huge minutes, he was bound, on occasion, to have one go in off him. That night in Toronto way back then stands out stands out for me. It was almost funny how the newspapers treated a non-event. And I agree, he never let a bad bounce affect his play afterwards.

  3. The game I think you are looking for is Januray 10, 1970. Here is what I remember from watching it:

    The Leaf fans are at times booing Orr everytime he touches the puck. Then they boo more when he sets up Stanfield for the games first goal.

    But even Orr can't hold the fort forever. The Leafs tie when the puck goes in off Orr's skate, then they move ahead when Orr's a little late backchecking or sliding over to stop Ron Ellis. Then the crowd really goes nuts when Larry Hillman takes a shot and the puck sort of dribbles in of Orrs stick. Strange goal.

    The Bruins stay close as they add two more goals (Orr scoring from the point). But the Leafs pick up another goal from Pulford (his second on the day) to take it, 4-3.

    The game belongs to Bruce Gamble. He was starting to fade at 32, but robs Esposito on a breakaway. Plus he makes two more saves that you wouldn't believe.

    Plus someone lays out Orr with a quick hit. Could be Quinn (Remember, they're still pissed off from April 2, 1969), could be Horton

  4. Scott, Fantastic memory! It may well have been the 1969-'70 season. As for the big hit on Bobby, I know that Quinn knocked Orr down with a huge check in a game in the season...this was, as you mention, after the big Boston playoff brawl, when Pat knocked Bobby out. That second big hit may well have been the night we are both writing about. What I remember is that there was no fight or anything after the hit, both teams just kept on playing hockey.

  5. Re Orr scores on own net.

    My Dad took me too that game as a young boy although I thought it was earlier than 69. We'd gone to the game anticipating the chance to see the greatest player of the day and then he had the puck deflect off of him once and then he totally gaffed and shoveled it into his own net the second time. I can still see Bobby kneeling on the ice, virtually in tears after that second goal. That was the picture on the cover of the sports section of the Toronto Star the next day. The reporter got the story right, I still think about it to this day. It's not mean spirited or disrespectful, just a freak nice for the strongest skater t ever lace up skates.

  6. I was at this game with my family that night and sitting about six rows up fight behind the net. The first one was a deflection off Orr's skate. The second one he came out from around the net and stick handled it into his own net while looking up the ice. He then fell to his knees in the crease and buried his face in his gloves. Not one of his better games.

  7. Phaneuf is on his way to some of this tonight!