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On This Date in Sports January 4, 1973: The Great Number Four

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Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins sets a new career record for goals by an NHL defenseman as he beats Jacques Caron of the St. Louis Blues late in the second period during a 4-2 loss on the road. Bobby Orr’s record 163rd goal comes in his 428th game. Red Kelly, who held the record with 162 goals, played 846 games in his career. Orr would finish his career with 270 goals in 657 career games.

Born on March 20, 1948, in Parry Sound, Ontario, Bobby Orr, who became a star in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals, made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins at the age of 18 in 1966. With 13 goals and 28 assists, Orr won the Calder Trophy in 1967, given to the NHL’s best rookie. He was the youngest player to be named Rookie of the Year. Bobby Orr won the first of eight consecutive Norris Trophies the following season, given annually to the NHL’s best Defenseman.

The greatest moment of Bobby Orr’s career came in 1970 when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Bruins beat the St. Louis Blues in four straight to capture the Stanley Cup. The shot of Orr after scoring the goal has become one of the most iconic images in the history of the NHL. That year, Bobby Orr became the first defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy given to the player who won the league’s scoring title. Orr also won the first of three straight Hart Trophies, given to the NHL MVP.

The following season may have been the best of Bobby Orr’s career as he became the first player in NHL history with 100 assists in a season. The 102 assists remain the single-season record for defensemen, as does his 139 points. In addition, Bobby Orr established a +/- rating that has never been approached at +124. The Bruins fell short in their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 1971 but rebounded to win for the second time in three years in 1972, with Orr winning the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP for the second time in three years.

Bobby Orr won a second scoring title in 1975, as he had a career-high 46 goals. However, knee injuries robbed him of any further greatness as Orr was limited to ten games in the 1975/76 season. After a falling out with the Bruins' new ownership group, Orr signed with the Chicago Black Hawks, but the knee continued to be an issue as he played 26 games over three years before retiring in 1979. The Hockey Hall of Fame waived the three-year waiting period, allowing Bobby Orr to be inducted at the age of 31 in 1979, the youngest player to ever be enshrined.

While six other defensemen surpassed Bobby Orr’s 270 career goals, Orr still holds many records, including the most points per game for a blueliner, and is widely considered the greatest defenseman in the history of the NHL, with some even believing him to be the greatest of all-time