Russ Conway is on the phone from Lawrence, Mass. He’s the Hall of Fame journalist from the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his expose of Alan Eagleson, articles that helped in the conviction of the former executive director of the NHLPA for fraud. Russ is talking about Bobby Orr.
“It was a long time ago, maybe thirty years, when Bobby was at the peak of his game, the greatest player in hockey. I was on my way to a Bruins’ morning skate and it was one of those days when everything was going wrong in my life. You know how it is, the car wouldn’t start, I slipped on a patch of ice, I found some letters I forgot to mail—a dozen little things that really aggravated me. So when I get to the Boston Garden and pass Bobby Orr he slaps me on the shoulder and says, “Russ, how’s everything?”
I say, “Everything’s horsebleep” or something similar, because I’m having a lousy day.
Bobby laughs and says, ‘I’ve got a cure for that. Meet me after practice.’
So now I’m curious and of course I meet him after practice.
“Come with me,” he says. We go into the Bruins dressing room where I wait while he showers and gets dressed. Then he talks to the trainer and the trainer loads him up with a lot of pucks and sticks and team souvenirs and we go to the parking lot. He throws all this stuff in the trunk of his Cadillac, tells me to hop in and we drive off. He doesn’t say a word as we drive away. I have no idea where he’s going or what he has in mind.
Now he pulls off the highway and drives into the parking lot of a major hospital. ‘Get out,’ he says. Then he turns and wags a finger at me. ‘Not a word of this trip gets in your newspaper. A deal?’
“Sure, Bobby. If you say so. It’s a deal.”
In the hospital he says hello to everyone he meets—the nurses, the staff, the doctors he passes in the halls. Then he makes his way to the children’s ward. Obviously he knows the way because he doesn’t need to ask directions. He goes from room to room, from bed to bed. Keep in mind these are sick kids–cancer patients and others with major health problems. But they all know Bobby Orr and how their faces light up when he kibitzes with them and hands out his hockey souvenirs— photos for all, a stick here and a puck there. I get a big lump in my throat watching all this.
Finally, he says his goodbyes and I turn to go.
“Not so fast,” says Bobby. “We’ve got two more floors to cover.”
It’s another hour before we’re out of there. And the lump in my throat has doubled in size by the time we reach the parking lot.
He starts the Caddie and we drive away, neither of us talking, both of us moved by the experience. Finally he turns to me and grins. He says, ‘Well, Russ, how’s your day now?’