It has been half a century since Bobby Orr scored the most iconic goal in NHL history. His overtime winner in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup gave Boston its first title since 1941 and the fact his post-goal flight through the air was caught on camera meant the moment was immediately enshrined in the pantheon of sports.
But how did the Bruins get to that moment? That’s the focus of “The 1970 Bruins: Big, Bad & Bobby,” a documentary that will air on the NHL Network this Sunday at 8 p.m. eastern.
The first thing that struck me about the doc is just how Boston the whole enterprise is. The narrator is none other than Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys, the Celtic punk band that is synonymous with the city. Other local celebrities included in the film include comedian Denis Leary, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and football hall of famer Howie Long (who knew he was a massive hockey fan?).
As for the B’s themselves, the crew is well-represented, from Harry Sinden to Ken Hodge to Johnny Bucyk. The most awe-inspiring set-up, however, is reserved for a roundtable interview featuring Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers and Derek Sanderson. You can tell the best stories those four had of their days on top were either edited or self-edited out, but it’s still fun to see the group all together in one place so many years later.
What makes the documentary compelling is the build-up to that 1969-70 campaign. As several of the participants note, the Bruins were a joke for a long time during the Original Six era, dwarfed by the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, not to mention Gordie Howe’s Detroit Red Wings. The acquisition of Orr, the teen phenom from Parry Sound, Ont., began the process of renewal, but what really got the Bruins back on the road to respectability was the massive 1967 trade with Chicago that saw Esposito, Hodge and Fred Stanfield come over from the Black Hawks in exchange for Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris.
This is not a new thought – it’s been called one of the most lop-sided trades in NHL history before – but can you imagine a team in today’s NHL getting such a huge boost in talent, while also having a young impact defenseman who would quickly become a Norris Trophy staple, all in a short amount of time? It would be like Colorado getting Leon Draisaitl without giving up any of Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen or Gabriel Landeskog.
All of a sudden, a team that used to get physically pushed around started to do the pushing. Once Sanderson joined the squad as a rookie, the swagger of the team was undeniable.
Boston has always been a hockey town and it is gratifying to see how passionate the fans were even back then. Once the Bruins became true contenders, their rock-star status in the city went into the stratosphere.
Again, it’s all about the lead-up in this documentary. As iconic as Orr’s goal was, the Blues were pushovers in the Cup final and everyone (even back then) acknowledged it. Boston didn’t have to face archrival Montreal in that post-season and even though Esposito faced his brother Tony in the semifinal against Chicago, the Hawks were certainly underdogs going in.
That 1969-70 season also saw Orr do the unimaginable, winning the scoring title as a defenseman with 120 points. He is still the only player ever to win the Hart, Art Ross, Norris and Conn Smythe and frankly, it’s hard to see that ever happening again. But fifty years ago, Orr leapt into icon status. Now, Bruins fans get a chance to re-live that magical campaign.