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Bobby Orr greets hockey fans at Gibson’s in Concord

  • Boston’s Bobby Orr goes airborne after scoring a goal against the St. Louis Blues that won the Stanley Cup for the Bruins in Boston on May 10, 1970. AP file

  • FILE - In this May 10, 2010, file photo, Boston Bruins hockey great Bobby Orr addresses a crowd during an unveiling ceremony for a statue of Orr, left, in front of the TD Garden sports arena, in Boston. The statue depicts Orr in the defining moment when he scored in overtime in 1970 giving the Bruins victory over the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup. As the NHL celebrates its 100th anniversary, Orr’s goal is so important that it reached the finals of the “Greatest Moments” bracket 47 years after it happened. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) Steven Senne

  • Courtesy—Viking Canada

  • Hockey legend Bobby Orr smiles after receiving a book of poetry written by Dudley Laufman (right) at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr visited Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord to meet fans and sign copies of his new book, “Bobby: My Story in Pictures” on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO/ Monitor staff

  • Randy Dow (left), Kerri George (right) and her son, Jaxon, wait in line outside of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord to meet Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) NICK STOICO / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, November 08, 2018

Concord resident Randy Dow was a student at the University of New Hampshire during the era of the Big Bad Bruins. He drove the daily commute to and from Durham in those days in the early 1970s, often with the Bruins’ broadcast coming through his radio.

He followed the Bruins and Bobby Orr, their dynamic wunderkind who led them to Stanley Cup championships in 1970 and ’72 while elevating the sport’s popularity throughout New England.

About 45 years later, Dow’s grandson, Jaxon, pulled on his own skates and picked up a stick at 3 years old. He was introduced to Bobby Orr through YouTube videos highlighting the defenseman’s superior skating, puck control and scoring touch.

Jaxon, now 6, still can’t get enough of those videos, his mother, Kerri, said, and he insists on wearing Orr’s No. 4 in his youth hockey league in Hooksett.

On Sunday, Jaxon and his grandfather got to meet the man himself as Orr was in Concord signing copies of his new book at Gibson’s Bookstore. The book is Bobby: My Story in Pictures, published five years after his 2013 memoir, Orr: My Story.

“It’s like meeting one of the heroes of my life,” Dow said. “I know that makes me sound crazy, but the guy was amazing. Greatest hockey player ever.”

Those four words were spoken countless times between fans waiting in a line that began at Gibson’s north door and stretched along South Main Street past Constantly Pizza.

Wayne Gretzky was the greatest scorer, Dow says, but no one could get around the ice like Orr.

“He changed hockey. He made it a new game,” Dow said. “He could play like a forward as much as he was on defense, but he was fast enough and a good enough player that he had no issue doing that.”

Those fabled skills live on through videos scattered across the internet, opening a window for those who could not see Orr themselves. As for the generations that did, the memories haven’t faded, nor the emotion – perhaps it’s nostalgia – associated with those moments that Orr, who turned 70 this year, and his Hall of Fame teammates etched into Boston sports lore.

One of those moments is most famous, the one where Orr receives a pass from forward Derek Sanderson and scores on St. Louis Blues netminder Glenn Hall in overtime to win the 1970 Stanley Cup, ending a 29-year drought in Boston. Tripped by Blues defenseman Noel Picard on the play, Orr flew through the air with his arms stretched out, his stick pointing straight up toward the rafters in the old Boston Garden.

Boston photographer Ray Lussier captured that moment known simply as “The Goal,” perhaps the most iconic hockey photo there is. It’s the first image that comes to mind when fans hear the Orr’s name, and it inspired a statue outside Boston’s TD Garden.

For Paul Nylen, it’s the moment that made hockey a family affair growing up.

“The goal in ’70 for the Stanley Cup seems like just yesterday,” said Nylen, who lives in Webster. “I was sitting there with my brother Mark and my grandmother. She wasn’t into hockey, but boy after that goal she watched every Bruins game until the day she died.”

Nylen was one of the first in line at Gibson’s. He and others arrived as early as 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the 6 p.m. event. Their patience was rewarded as Orr got to an early start signing books, shaking hands and taking pictures at about 5:30 p.m.

“I’ve been waiting 49 years for this day,” Nylen said.

Fans, clad in Bruins gear from all eras, waited as the sun went down and the evening set in. Strangers exchanged their favorite hockey memories, whether of Orr or the Bruins or even the UNH Wildcats. There were no games, but it was hockey night in Concord.

The ticketed event sold out quickly. Some Gibson’s staffers said it was the largest event the store had since Hillary Clinton visited to sign books in December 2017.

The doors opened and the line snaked through children’s department and past the young adult books before reaching its destination, a desk placed in front of the fiction shelves temporarily turned into a wall display for Orr’s new book.

One by one, they stepped up and said hello. Orr greeted each with a handshake and a smile.

“He’s very friendly,” said Joe Fortin, one of the hired security guards working the event.

If the fans weren’t retelling tales of Orr’s high-flying moments on the ice, they told stories of his generosity and charming character.

“I am sure he got into tussles as a player, but he was also a gentleman,” said Dudley Laufman, 87, who twice saw Orr play against Toronto at Boston Garden.

Fortin, a longtime hockey fan, wasn’t told who the visiting author was when he was given the assignment a few days ago. He found out on Wednesday and had the chance to meet Orr when he arrived.

“These are the perks of being a security guard,” Fortin said as a smile swept across his face. “I shook his hand and said, ‘How are you, Mr. Orr?’ He said, ‘No, call me Bobby.’ ”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)