But what I mean is that I’m not a big fan of these “who’s better” debates. I tried not to fall into that trap when I was a kid and people would argue, “who’s better—Gordie Howe or Rocket Richard” and later, “who's faster, Dave Keon or Henri Richard”?
My belief really and truly is, they were/are all fantastic players and I was and am loathe to try to claim one guy is “better” than the next. They played with different players, on different teams, for different coaches and in different “systems”. (Bobby Hull, for example, played in a wide-open system in
. Frank Mahovlich played in a much more up and down, checking system under Punch Imlach in Chicago back in the 1960s.) Toronto
That’s my observation, my “opinion” and only that. That is not, though, to compare him to anyone else. Simply that, in my mind, Orr was that good, certainly in his era, at least.
Now, when it comes to the above-mentioned “fantasy” game between Orr and Gretzky and “who would win” (assuming they both had outstanding goalies in net from whatever era we want—you pick), yes, I do have an “opinion”.
Orr wins by a big margin.
Is this a knock on Gretzky? Hardly. We all know the guy was amazing. Add whatever descriptive words you want to add.
But if you had a team of "Orrs" literally versus a team of "Gretzkys", you’d have two players with extraordinary hockey sense, for sure. Starting and stopping and darting at full speed, check mark. Uncanny vision and passing ability, for sure. Both were marvelous in those areas, Gretzky maybe the best of all time.
could skate and shift and move, Orr had extraordinary speed. Extra gears. So did Wayne , but Bobby was smoother. Wayne
Even if I conceded that
could maybe keep up with Orr in a foot race, the obvious distinction is that Gretzky was a forward and Orr was a defenseman. Orr, to me, was a d-man who could easily have been a forward, played any position. Gretzky could not have played defense. I mean sure, he had the skill to play the position, but Orr hammered guys, fought, blocked all kinds of shots, played dangerously. That wasn’t Gretzky. Wayne
So the physical dimension and Orr’s raw speed and ability to play any position gives him the decided advantage in this make-believe “five-on-five” contest.
Not everyone will agree, I’m sure, and that’s, as I often say, part of the fun in being a fan. If we all believed the same thing, cheered for the same team, had the same favorite player, it would be pretty dull stuff.
For fun, let me know your opinion on this one!