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Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke: Fenway reunion brings back memories of the spring of 1974

The Winter Outdoor Classic was fun again but other sites have covered that game more than adequately and much better than I could.

The one thing that did bring back a memory, though, was the beginning of the game when Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke were brought out on to the ice at Fenway as the “honorary captains”.

Both these guys were in my hockey ‘wheel-house’, playing in an era when I followed the game very closely.
Bobby Orr joined the league at the age of 18 in the fall of 1966, Clarke about 3 years later. The Bruins built their rugged, talented team around Orr from the time he joined the team. They already had Eddie Westfall, Johnny Bucyk and Johnny Mckenzie, but in came Esposito, Hodge and Stanfield, then Wayne Cashman and Derek Sanderson and many others who fit the “Big Bad Bruins” label. They were good and they were tough.

The Flyers did much the same with Clarke, developing a team with a macho identity that did everything they could within—and well outside—the rules to protect their captain and intimidate the opposition. They already had ex-Bruin Gary Dornhoefer and rugged Ed Van Impe, but in came names like Shultz, Saleski, “Mad Dog” Kelly, “Moose” Dupont and others who became the “Broad Street Bullies”. The Flyers also had elite talent in guys like Clarke and Rick MacLeish.

Orr was a brilliant skater and playmaker, with remarkable anticipation. He was tough, as well. Because of his skill level, speed and his ability to move in any direction on a dime, it was almost impossible to get the puck away from him.

Clarke was not big, but he played hard, and was as fiercely determined a player as I’ve ever seen. Though he wasn’t a great skater in the classic sense, he, too, was hard to get the puck from. He was particularly dangerous when the game was on the line.

Now, I hated both the Bruins and the Flyers. While I admired the talent and work ethic of both Orr and Clarke, I’ve never liked the bully mentality that both teams utilized. So I kind of hated them, too—while wishing the Leafs had someone just like them.

The Bruins and Flyers had many battles in the early and mid-‘70s when both were at their peak, and one series that hockey fans most remember was when they played in the 1974 NHL finals, before Orr’s still-young knees were totally shot.

The Flyers had come on that year and were a really good team, but I doubt 10% of fans believed they had a shot against the Bruins. Funnily, choosing between two evils, I was pulling for the Flyers to win, though I would have preferred they declare no winner that year. The Bruins had won the Cup in 1970 and 1972 (though they never beat Montreal in the process), and had taken out the Leafs that spring in 4 games in the quarter-finals.

The series went back and forth, Clarke scoring an overtime goal in Game 2 in Boston (correct me if I’m wrong on this point), which started to make people wonder if the Flyers may well be able to compete.

The Flyers had the edge in goal with Bernie Parent, a future Hall-of-Famer. The longer the series went, the more confident the Flyers became.

By Game 6, they were at home at the Spectrum. They led the series three games to two, but if they lost, they faced the specter of heading back to face Orr and a great Bruins team in Boston.

Well, the game was coming down to the wire, Philadelphia protecting a 1-0 lead, and there was a battle for possession in front of Boston’s net. Orr and Clarke got into it (both on their knees at one point, if I’m not mistaken) flailing at one another. I think Clarke goaded Orr into more of a ‘fight’ than Orr should have been getting into late in the game. To see these hockey warriors fighting—for the puck, for ice and then each other—was something to see.

As valuable as Clarke was, getting Orr off the ice late in the game was a trade off you’d take every time.

Philadelphia held off the Bruins, and won the game, the series and the Cup. Philadelphia fans exploded in joy, many racing onto the Spectrum ice surface. It was a huge upset that an “expansion” team had won the Cup. But the lingering memory for me was that sudden, pitched battle between Orr and Clarke, probably the two most valuable players in hockey at the time, when everything was on the line.

That’s what popped into my mind when watching them embrace at center ice before the game at Fenway Park. Chances are, they both thought back to that moment in Game 6 of 1974, too.


  1. Actually, the Orr-Clarke incident you mention happened in the first period of Game Six.

    What you are mis-recalling is Orr's takedown of Clarke on a breakaway late in the game - which Art Skov got wrong. It was a great defensive play - vintage Orr. Orr went nuts at the bad call, and he was in the Box until about the last 20 (or less) seconds of the game. Too late to create another Orrian miracle.

    Here's the game in its entirety:

    Further, the Flyers had won twelve games in a row that year when Art Skov was the Referee. I know he is in the Hall of Fame, but this little factoid taints him in my eyes.

    Watch the Video. It was a very bad call. Orr reaches around and strips the puck from Clarke. Clean play.

    One can only imagine what Orr might have done had he not been in the Box during those last two minutes.

    If you recall, Bobby Orr dominated Game Five and thereby put the Bruins back into the Series. Many people forget how much he dominated the Flyers in that game. He was great in Game Six too.

    The Flyer goal was a Rich Macleish tip-in of a Moose Dupont shot from the point in the 1st Period. The Goaltending in the Final was incredible! Watch the game and you will see that Hockey in 1974 was probably better than it is is now - or at least equal.

    Phil Esposito won the Hart Trophy that Season, but he played poorly in the Final. I never understood how Espo won the last two Harts, as it was clear to me (and I was kid) that Orr was the Engineer of all his success.

    I have been watching and playing hockey since 1969 and Bobby Orr is far & away the Greatest Hockey Player I have ever seen. Gretzky is not even close. All of the players Orr played with had their best years when they played with him. After they were separated, the all became average to slightly-above average. After Esposito went to New York he never scored 50 again. Coincidence?

    1. Re your last paragraph where you state " I have been watching and playing hockey since 1969 and Bobby Orr is far & away the Greatest Hockey Player I have ever seen".
      You are dead on. And he did what he did for the most part on one leg. I often wonder what this guy would have been like if he had been able to play with two good knees.

    2. Hard to imagine, Anon, but he might have been even better than he already was!

  2. Bobby Orr is without a doubt the greatest player the NHL has ever seen. Howe was great at all phases of the game and Gretzky was the greatest playmaker I have ever seen but no one could control the game like Orr.