Wayne Gretzky is the greatest offensive player in hockey history. Bobby Orr is the best defenseman in history. It’s really a shame that the two icons didn’t play in the NHL at the same time.
Bobby Orr has often said that he’s blessed, that he’s always been lucky, but if he had any disappointments, it would’ve been that he wasn’t able to play when the likes of Gretzky and Mario Lemieux did.
Injuries limited Orr during his career and eventually forced him to retire after just 657 games. During those games, he recorded a whopping 915 points, and he changed how the game is played and how defensemen act on the ice.
Gretzky has stated many times that Orr is his favorite player, and although they didn’t play at the same time in the NHL, they did actually play one game together. In 1980, Gretzky had just completed his first NHL season with the Oilers. Orr was retired but geared up to play in a charity game for a former teammate in Oshawa Generals, Billy Heindl.
Orr asked Gretzky if he could participate, and although it forced him to fly for… quite a way, he said yes.
“I was so mad,” Gretzky said during an NHL event. “I had to fly from Hawaii to Winnipeg. And the only reason I did was so I could play with Bobby Orr.”
For Bobby Orr, it was special sharing the ice with The Great One.
“It was the only time I’d ever been on the ice with Wayne and I’ve never been on the ice since with him, so obviously it was a thrill. But the game itself? Remember, it was for charity. It wasn’t all-out, magnificent plays or anything like that. But to be on the ice, with a player like Wayne and a person like Wayne, was special, it really was.”
Gretzky’s fascination for Orr started at an early age. His father, the late Walter Gretzky, came home after watching a Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins game.
“He came back and he told me that this guy Bobby Orr was pretty special. All I remember saying to my dad is, ‘I can’t play defense,’” Gretzky said.
“So my dad said, ‘OK, forgot about Bobby Orr.”