I thought about titling this post “I’ve Never Been to Spain” after my favorite Three Dog Night song. In fact I have been to Spain. I have been to Barcelona three times and I was in Madrid Wednesday for the first time for a grand total of eight hours (left Tuesday night, got home on Wednesday night).
So, once again, I found myself trying to find something to read. Based on my last experience at the airport bookstore, I knew the pickings would be slim so, since I was going to Spain, I thought I would dust off my complete collection of Ernest Hemingway short stories that I am only half way through.
But as I passed by the Relay in Terminal 3, I couldn’t resist taking a quick look at the sparse selection. A little book caught my eye at the bottom of one of the displays: Searching for Bobby Orr by Stephen Brunt. I love Stephen Brunt. I always read his columns in the Sports section of the Globe and Mail and Doug and I love to listen to him on the FAN radio show on the drive home. He is an extremely smart and very well respected journalist and writer in the sport community. I had heard about the Bobby Orr book and, even though sport books are not really my thing, thought I would give it a try.
Why this sports book (besides, the fact that it was Stephen Brunt)? I’m a Canadian girl, so it almost goes without saying that I love Bobby Orr. Even though I was too young to remember his career and only have vague recollections of when he retired, I carry a huge torch for him. I had a Bobby Orr moment about five or six years ago on a flight to Boston. I sat in front him and spent the entire flight figuring out a way to say hi and engage him in some kind of brief conversation and/or seduce him to my hotel room. He’s a good looking man. And when the moment came, I stared at him with a goofy smile, my heart pounding and face turning a deep shade of scarlet, and then high tailed it out of there before I made an even bigger fool of myself. So much for the seduction.
Stephen Brunt loves Bobby Orr too. The book is almost like a lover's ode. With Brunt’s folksy writing style you can almost hear him telling the story to you as if he was on the radio. Bobby Orr is notoriously private and at the end of the book Brunt acknowledged that Orr was not blessing the book, and requested that his family and close friends not be contacted. Brunt respected his wishes and still managed to create a very insightful look into a hockey legend whose stardom came during a very tumultuous time in the development and expansion of the NHL. One of my only criticisms though is that I sometimes found myself getting lost with the dates and cross references back to the various players, coaches and events. Ever in the backdrop is the story of the evolution of the NHL and Orr’s role in changing the role of player representation (the rise and fall of the demonized Alan Eagleson), the founding of the NHLPA, the revolution in players’ salaries and Canada’s role in the international hockey scene (think 1972 and the Canada Cup). I especially liked Brunt’s side notes on players and events on the periphery; kind of like Pop Up Video, only smarter and more interesting.
The golden idol of hockey is not a perfect man. He had his flaws: a wicked temper, liked to drink, liked women, could be surly and temperamental, especially when it came to the health of his fragile knees and protecting his privacy. But like any good puck bunny, that just makes me love him more, makes him that much more attractive. I need to go listen to some Tragically Hip. I’m not ready to loosen my grip on Bobby Orr.
Searching for Bobby Orr, Stephen Brunt
Published by Vintage Canada