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With apologies for the lousy formatting, Don had this quote in the thread about who is the greatest men's tennis player of all time:

"I read this article the other day which says that there are two athletes in American history that 'transcended and transformed' their sport: Babe Ruth and Wilt Chamberlain. I can't disagree with this - not even Gretsky had the impact those two had."

The author picked the wrong hockey player.  If you're looking at someone who "transcended and transformed" hockey based on offensive stats, it's Bobby Orr.  He was the first offensive defenceman, and I mean "offensive" in the most positive light.

As an example, without his example would Hall-of-Fame players like Paul Coffey or Ray Bourque played the way they did?

(Disclaimer:  I know a lot about Orr because he is my mom's favorite hockey player.  Over a decade ago I bought her an autographed black-and-white 14"x20" of him flying through the air after his Stanley Cup-winning goal.  Happiness is making your mom cry in a good way.  BTW, his birthday is March 20.)

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With apologies for the lousy formatting, Don had this quote in the thread about who is the greatest men's tennis player of all time:

"I read this article the other day which says that there are two athletes in American history that 'transcended and transformed' their sport: Babe Ruth and Wilt Chamberlain. I can't disagree with this - not even Gretsky had the impact those two had."

The author picked the wrong hockey player.  If you're looking at someone who "transcended and transformed" hockey based on offensive stats, it's Bobby Orr.  He was the first offensive defenceman, and I mean "offensive" in the most positive light.

As an example, without his example would Hall-of-Fame players like Paul Coffey or Ray Bourque played the way they did?

(Disclaimer:  I know a lot about Orr because he is my mom's favorite hockey player.  Over a decade ago I bought her an autographed black-and-white 14"x20" of him flying through the air after his Stanley Cup-winning goal.  Happiness is making your mom cry in a good way.  BTW, his birthday is March 20.)

Yes, I can see what you're saying: Orr's style of play was more radical than Gretzky's; Gretzky "merely" rewrote the record books (Gretzky's single-season assists are pretty awesome: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, tied for 8th, 10th, 11th, and tied for 12th - couldn't one argue that Gretzky transcended the game in terms of assists, similarly to how Ruth transcended the game in terms of home runs, or how Chamberlain transcended the game in terms of points *and* rebounds?).

I'm going to reach the extent of my knowledge fairly quickly here (*), but has there really ever been another Orr? Or (pun intended) was he such a singular player that he stands alone? Ruth and Chamberlain definitely changed the way the game was played (especially Ruth, because Chamberlain's influence seems to have waned with the advent of the three-pointer, 24-second clock, and wider lane - then again ... he sort of helped bring those about (so did Mikan and Alcindor)).

I'm not sure there's ever been another Ruth or Chamberlain either (relative to what came before them), so the question might be moot.

Interestingly, what I've found is that if you ask someone who's not an expert who the greatest player ever is, they tend to answer Gretzky; if you ask someone who is an expert, they tend to answer Orr. Hall Of Fame at age *31*?!

(*) For future reference, my knowledge is relatively weak in both hockey and soccer compared to basketball, baseball, football, and tennis. Selfishly, that's why I was really glad when this forum took off with a bunch of soccer posts, and am similarly happy now that it's being done with hockey.

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In terms of defencemen, I don't think there has been another Orr for the sheer talent and dominance he had.  Have there been players who have emulated him?  Yes.  I mentioned two above.  But he was nothing that had ever been seen before.  He was revolutionary.

It's without argument that Gretzky's incredible talent as a forward is more than evident with the records he racked up.  But he more importantly served as the catalyst to the southward expansion of the NHL with his trade to LA on August 9, 1988 (I didn't have to look up that date; as to whether the southward expansion has been effective, that's another issue).  In terms of changing how the game was played, Orr stands above him.

As for someone else who had an impact on the game but in a different manner?  Jacques Plante, the first goalie to permanently wear a mask in 1959.

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Orr as the greatest of all time is a more than reasonable argument. As lovehockey noted, he transformed the potential of a position more than anyone else. It's a little misleading to just look at numbers - Gretzky played in an era that was wide open offensive hockey. He also played in an era where they started handing out assists to the last two guys to touch the puck on the goal scorer's team. It used to be much more judgemental about if they assisted the play or not (kind of like hoops).

Then again I'm a little biased

post-40-0-81697100-1426258702_thumb.jpg

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In terms of defencemen, I don't think there has been another Orr for the sheer talent and dominance he had.  Have there been players who have emulated him?  Yes.  I mentioned two above.  But he was nothing that had ever been seen before.  He was revolutionary.

As for someone else who had an impact on the game but in a different manner?  Jacques Plante, the first goalie to permanently wear a mask in 1959.

Orr as the greatest of all time is a more than reasonable argument. 

Let me ask you two this from a position of relative ignorance: Did Orr sacrifice defense by playing so much offense? Is he unequivocally the greatest defenseman ever to play? If not, could it be argued that his offensive statistics have inflated his reputation?

And I miss Rod Langway. *That* was a manly man. He's also the only NHL player ever to have been born in China.

(Disclaimer:  I know a lot about Orr because he is my mom's favorite hockey player.  Over a decade ago I bought her an autographed black-and-white 14"x20" of him flying through the air after his Stanley Cup-winning goal.  Happiness is making your mom cry in a good way.  BTW, his birthday is March 20.)

noelpicard.jpg

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In his 8 main years in Boston he led the league in plus/minus rating (points scored by your team while on the ice - points scored by other team while on ice) 6 times, including the all-time record of +124 in 70-71.

The only person within spitting distance of that record is the also great Larry Robinson.

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Let me ask you two this from a position of relative ignorance: Did Orr sacrifice defense by playing so much offense? Is he unequivocally the greatest defenseman ever to play? If not, could it be argued that his offensive statistics have inflated his reputation?

And I miss Rod Langway. *That* was a manly man. He's also the only NHL player ever to have been born in China.

noelpicard.jpg

Do not make me call my mother!  BTW, that's the photo, just a different autograph, that hangs in Chez Parents.

Orr was an excellent defenceman; what made him exceptional was he was confident enough to know when he could go on offense.

That being said, I have no problem if someone wants to discuss whether there has been a better "pure" defenceman, and I think you have to go pre-Orr for that.  Someone like Eddie Shore or Doug Harvey.

If you're looking for someone modern-day to beat Orr?  Perhaps Niklas Lidstrom.  Perhaps.

As for Langway, it's a shame he isn't appreciated enough.

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