Orr Jersey Could Be Windfall for Canadian Truck Driver

Orr photoJohn Rows had the good fortune of being the nephew of a Boston Bruins’ scout in the late 1960s.

Garry Young was a former NHL coach who traveled to Boston after Bobby Orr’s rookie year and brought home a couple of gifts for kids in the family…jerseys worn by two of the team’s stars, including the teenager Orr, already a sensation.

Game-worn jerseys were just thought of as hand-me-downs back then.

Decades later, the jersey is one of the finest and most important post-War hockey artifacts in existence.  Not long after he brought it home, someone offered $1,000 for it–big money back in the day.  Luckily, he kept it.  It goes on the block this month at Heritage Auctions and could sell for six figures or more.

“You can imagine that was a lot of money to me back then,” said Rows. “There were a couple different people interested in, actually, but I decided to hold on to it.”

Bobby Orr game worn jerseyThe jersey – which came to Rows as a gift from a cousin via his uncle, Garry Young, head scout for the Bruins at the time and later a coach for the Golden Seals and Blues – may well now bring more than 100 times that amount, estimated as it is at $100,000+.

Not bad for a kid from Canada who just simply loved Bobby Orr, lucked into the gift of a lifetime and now is selling the it as one of the best NHL collectible to ever come on the open market.

“My uncle brought it home with him,” Rows said. “He had the Orr jersey and a Gerry Cheevers jersey and gave them to my cousins. One of them later asked me which one I liked and I told him I really liked Orr, so he gave me that one and said he’d keep the Cheevers jersey.”

The brilliant play of Orr during his debut season, one for which he was awarded the coveted Calder Memorial Trophy as the League’s most outstanding rookie, was a key factor to this remarkable jersey’s survival. While the bulk of the Bruins’ jerseys were recycled at the close of the NHL season for farm club use, Young must have had a feeling about the Orr jersey, so he saved it from obscurity.

Rows decided to bring No. 4 out of the closet for only the third or fourth time in 40 years after watching the Antiques Roadshow online.

The produce truck driver then sent photos of the jersey and a description to the website to see what it might be worth.

“That was on Saturday,” Rows told the Whig Standard newspaper. “On Monday, I had people phoning me from everywhere with the first ones being the Heritage people from Dallas.”

He said the company agreed to cut its consignment fee from 15% to 10%, which helped seal his decision to have them sell it for him.

“It seems like every generation delivers the hockey world a single ‘Chosen One,’ like Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Heritage Sports Collectibles, “but the hype surrounding Orr really did surpass anything that’s had been seen before the late ‘60s or ever since.”

Barely a teenager when discovered by the Boston Bruins, Orr was destined to wear the rookie jersey years before he first set skate blade upon the NHL ice. A native of Parry Sound, Ontario, Orr led the Oshawa Generals farm team to the OHA Championship in his third season with the club, after which Toronto lawyer Alan Eagleson negotiated Orr’s first NHL contract with the Bruins, settling on a $25,000 figure, establishing the eighteen-year old phenom as the highest paid player in League history. The rookie average at the time had been $8,000.

The other known Orr rookie jersey, previously sold in a private transaction for a six-figure price, was reincarnated for use with the Niagara Falls Flyers of the OHA, and bears the farm club’s logo crest on the chest, having been stripped of the original Bruins emblem. There are pictures of a third Orr rookie jersey, a gold colored sweater used in approximately 16 games, but the piece itself is lost to history.

“Extensive photographic research establishes this jersey’s legitimacy beyond any question,” said Ivy. “Every image of Orr wearing white during his rookie season finds him wearing one of only two jerseys. You’ll find no rookie image of Orr (excluding those in which he wears gold) that does not match one of these two jerseys.”

According to Heritage, game wear evident throughout the jersey, with extensive team repairs covering wide expanses on the sleeves and smaller wounds inflicted to the torso. Over a dozen individual holes are patched, several quite sizable. A constellation of stick marks crisscross the chest and, to a lesser extent, the back, bearing further witness to the brutality of Orr’s rough defensive play, a level of back ice dominance which led New York Rangers star Harry Howell, winner of the 1966-67 Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman to accept that the award would be his last because, “Orr will own this trophy from now on.” Orr’s streak of eight consecutive Norris Trophies would begin the next year.

“’Holy Grail’ terminology is too often used in the hyperbolic world of collecting,” said Ivy, “but I make no excuses using it here. Few figures in sports history have had a greater impact upon the fortunes of their franchise than Orr.  If the only unaltered Bobby Orr rookie jersey in the world isn’t a hockey Holy Grail, then what is?”