I should probably preface this review by admitting that Bobby Orr has always been my favorite player who I never saw play. At times I've been disappointed I wasn't around to see Mike Bossy, or Bobby Clarke, and I think it would have been something to see a guy like Maurice Richard or Joe Taylor playing, but I don't think any of them really touched the game the same way Orr did. Knowing that he threw away the end of his career playing on one leg for Team Canada in '76 always made me admire the guy even more.
Stephen Brunt's Searching For Bobby Orr is an unauthorized biography which automatically tells you two things; firstly the book isn't going to have any direct interviews with Orr, all quotes will be taken from newspapers or other secondary sources. Secondly, you know Orr doesn't necessarily approve of the book.
The fact that the story isn't told from Orr's point of view, the tales recollected aren't necessarily those he finds most important, is a bit disappointing from my perspective. I think Phil Esposito's memoir is simply a stellar undertaking in that sense, he lays everything on the line, and like his larger than life personality, is not afraid to say what's on his mind - consequences be damned.
That said, Bobby Orr never has, and never will be, an Esposito personality type. He's always been known for being reserved (at least publicly), and one particularly interesting insight in this book is how carefully Orr guarded his public image from his private life. Because of this personality trait, a Bobby Orr authorized biography would most likely be much less in depth and informative, even if it was in Orr's voice.
The book covers Orr's life from his childhood in Parry Sound ON to his Stanley Cups in Boston to his final confrontation with Al Eagleson. It is about hockey to be sure, but there is a lot more there; Brunt is more than willing to give the reader Orr's context in a wider world including the social trends, hockey tactics, and finally (and oftentimes most importantly in the book) hockey politics. This book isn't just about how Bobby Orr played the game of hockey, its how he changed hockey, both on and off the ice.
Although a bit slow at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the book both as insight into Orr's life and also how the inner workings of the game have changed over the past 50 years. The names, faces and life works of the game's all time greats (Sam Pollock, Scotty Bowman, Don Awrey, Phil Esposito, Wren Blair, Carl Brewer, the list goes on) and their relationship to Orr are discussed in detail as well.
You can pre order the paperback edition of Searching For Bobby Orr here.