TORONTO – A piece of Canadian hockey history is on the auction block and it has nothing to do with Sid the Kid or The Great One.
It’s Bobby Orr’s rookie jersey from his 1966-67 season with the Boston Bruins, one of only two such jerseys still known to exist. Orr, a native of Parry Sound, Ont., is remembered as one of the NHL’s greatest and most creative defencemen.
The image of a jubilant, airborne Orr scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1970 against the St. Louis Blues is etched into the memories of a generation.
His rookie jersey – complete with the stick marks and patched-up holes you’d expect from such high-flying rough stuff – is expected to fetch at least $100,000 at auction.
Those wanting to get their hands on it have only until April 23 to bid.
The historic jersey belongs to John Rows, 58, of the eastern Ontario city of Kingston.
Rows says he was just a teenager when his uncle, Garry Young, who was chief scout for the Bruins, gave him the jersey. Young ran a hockey school in Oshawa, Ont., east of Toronto, and his nephew spent a few summers there helping out.
The Orr jersey was originally given to one of Young’s three sons but he preferred the jersey of Bruins’ goalie Gerry Cheevers, so the black and gold No. 4 went to Rows.
“He brought this home and my cousin gave it to me and I brought it home and I put it away and I’ve had it in a box ever since,” Rows recalled in a phone interview Tuesday.
“I might have got it out of that box maybe two or three times in the last, well, almost 40 years.”
When he first got the jersey back in the late ’60s, he was offered $1,000 for it. He said no.
Now close to retirement, Rows is ready to part with his prize. A visit to the Antiques Roadshow website piqued his curiosity about what the jersey could be worth.
Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas contacted him first. Research turned up the fact that the sweater was in fact Orr’s rookie jersey – which was news to Rows.
Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage Auctions, said the jersey is one-of-a-kind.
“It’s really the cream of the crop as far as collectibles go,” Ivy said in a phone interview from Dallas.
“There’s one other known Bobby Orr rookie jersey and that one was sent down to the minors where they actually made alterations, which is fairly common for … jerseys from the era.”
Ivy said that one sold privately for more than six figures.
The wear and tear – and visible repairs – on this one make it particularly valuable to collectors, he said.
“You definitely want to see good game use from old hockey sweaters and this one has it,” said Ivy.
“You can actually match those up through photos from that season and see where the different patches have been put on, where the material’s been fixed.”
The auction can be found online at www.HA.com under the sports collectibles category.
The live auction will be held April 23.