In the pantheon of sports, few moments stand as crystallized in time as Bobby Orr’s “flying goal”. For fans of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the sport of ice hockey in general, this moment has transcended beyond just a game-winning goal; it represents an era, a player, and the indomitable spirit of sporting triumph. And, it just might be the greatest sports photo of all time.
Bobby Orr, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins, was already creating waves in the NHL with his speed and vision. But on May 10, 1970, in the Stanley Cup finals against the St. Louis Blues, Orr secured his place not just among hockey’s elite, but etched his name permanently on the sport.
It’s Game 4 of the finals, and the Bruins were leading the series 3-0. A win in this game would give them their first Stanley Cup trophy since 1941. Both teams were locked in a 3-3 draw, pushing the game into overtime.
Then came the moment.
Derek Sanderson, the famous, ferocious, and flamboyant Bruins center, had the puck behind the Blues’ net. Sanderson’s touch pass set off a chain of events that would be remembered forever. Orr practically flew from the point straight to the crease to slam it home. The red light flashed, the siren sounded, but it was what happened next that etched this moment in history.
In the process of scoring, Orr was tripped by St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard. His momentum and the trip combined to send Orr airborne, parallel to the ice, with his arms outstretched in celebration. It was a moment of sheer exuberance, capturing the raw emotion of achieving the pinnacle of one’s sport. Photographer Ray Lussier was in the right place at the right time and snapped a photograph that would become one of the most iconic images in sports history.
The significance of this “flying goal” stretches beyond the visual. It symbolized a changing of the guard in the NHL. Orr, with his unparalleled skating and offensive skills, was redefining what it meant to be a defenseman. No longer was the role confined to just bruising checks and guarding the goalie; Orr showcased that a defenseman could be a significant offensive force and a game-changer.
Furthermore, the goal marked the ascension of the Boston Bruins as a dominant force in the 1970s. Under the leadership of Orr and with a roster of immensely talented players, the Bruins would go on to win another Stanley Cup in 1972. Orr himself would rack up numerous accolades, including two Hart Trophies as the league’s most valuable player and eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the best defenseman – a record that still stands.
The “flying goal” also had broader ramifications for the sport of hockey. It became a focal point for marketing the game, drawing in new fans and showcasing the excitement and unpredictability of hockey. The image of Orr, suspended in mid-air, became a symbol of the NHL and was used extensively in promotional materials, bringing greater visibility and interest to the sport in non-traditional markets.
In retrospection, Bobby Orr’s flying goal stands as a testament to the unpredictability and beauty of sports. It wasn’t just about a puck finding the back of the net or a series being clinched. It was about a young defenseman from Parry Sound, Ontario, redefining his position, a team reclaiming glory, and a sport broadcasting its allure to the world.
Decades later, Orr’s airborne celebration remains one of the greatest plays, and in that singular moment, Orr didn’t just fly; he soared into history.