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A decision to ban bodychecking across Canada for 11 and 12-year-old hockey players gets the OK from a legend of the game, but he’s not convinced taking fighting out of the sport at its highest level is appropriate.

Former Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr, considered by many the greatest player of all time, was a guest of the Leggat Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC car dealership on Fairview Street recently for a private event associated with the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey program.

The main role of Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey, according to its website ( ), is to talk to parents, coaches, officials and players about the values of respect and responsibility.

The program is also designed to help participants develop fundamental hockey skills, enhance the fun aspects of the game and provide parents with key information about their role in guiding their child’s hockey experience.

Orr held short one-on-one interviews with several media members at Leggat and later spoke to about 100 invited guests of the dealership.

He then sat patiently for about two hours, marker in hand, taking photos with almost everyone there. He also signed photos and Orr-related memorabilia for wide-eyed fans of all ages, from children to seniors.

Two days later, Orr was on the ice at the Appleby Ice Centre in Burlington with a group of five and six-year-old boys and girls as the guest instructor for a basic hockey skills mini-camp.

During a one-on-one talk with the Post at Leggat, Orr, looking trim and fit at 65, discussed various issues about his sport, from youth hockey to the pros.

As part of the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey program, Orr stressed the game needs to be about and for the kids.

“You can see foolishness in the game at any level,” he said of dangerous play on the ice or bad behavior behind the bench or in the stands.

“Be respectful and responsible, both at home and in the rink. It’s not just for the kids,” he said of following the rules of fair play and decorum on and off the ice, noting parents need to be a big part of the solution, too.

“I remember my days as a kid playing hockey and it’s among my fondest memories,” Orr said of his childhood growing up in Parry Sound, Ont.

“I don’t remember unruly parents,” inside rinks, Orr said of his youth experiences playing hockey, baseball and soccer.

“My dad would say, ‘Go out and have fun and see what happens.’

“If you are pushing him (child), humiliating him, they will (resent) you. By criticizing them you will chase them from the game,” he said of some parents and coaches who expect too much out of young athletes.

The general concern about injuries, like concussions, in hockey is related to his overall concerns about safety because generally coaches and referees often don’t maintain control of what is happening on the ice, he noted.

Orr is fine with Hockey Canada’s ban on bodychecking at the peewee level (11 and 12-year-olds).

“Part of their job is to keep the kids safe,” he said of Hockey Canada. “It’s a big job…. we (adults) have to control what goes on.

“We do a checking drill with eight-year-olds, it’s angling off and you take him out of the play,” but not conventional bodychecking, he said.

“In our day (1960s/70s), I didn’t (take a) run (at) Jean Beliveau,” he said of the Montreal Canadiens’ star centre, who was considered the NHL’s most gentlemanly player.

“It was a little different in my day,” Orr said of on-ice fights between players. Despite being a superstar he fought on occasion.

However, he’s got no time for pre-arranged fisticuffs, usually involving marginal NHLers.

“Take staged fighting out of the game. (However) I’d be afraid if we eliminate it (spontaneous fighting) completely, they’d get to them another way,” he said of fringe or tougher players picking on star players.

“If we eliminate it completely, a lot of guys would get brave. I don’t want to see Sidney Crosby hurt or fight.”

In his talk to the Chevrolet guests, an animated Orr talked about many of things he discussed in the media interviews but also took questions from the adoring crowd — many of them middle-aged men — a number of whom wore Orr jerseys.

“Looking around the room I see a lot of little hockey players, and that’s what our program is all about.”

However, he cautioned parents that their child making it to the NHL is a remote possibility.

“It’s nice to think that little Johnny might be the one,” but there’s a tiny fraction of a percentage chance it will happen, he said.

In talking about the state of the sport, Orr lamented a lack of creativity.

“There is so much structure in the game today. Even peewees they are teaching them to trap (defensively). I learned to skate on an open bay. We were freewheeling all the time.”

The pro game has led to some serious injuries, he told the rapt audience, because the players today are “too big, too strong and too fast.”

He believes the game can be better, and safer, if it eliminated hits from behind and blind-side hits and instituted automatic icing.

In a lighter moment, Orr had two young boys join him. He asked them who they thought would win the recent playoff series between Pittsburgh and Boston; one boy picked the Bruins the other the Penguins.

Then Orr asked them who the best player is. Orr regularly trumpets the ability of Sidney Crosby. However, both boys said, ‘You’, meaning Orr, which drew laughter from him and the crowd.

Someone also asked Orr how he got his famous No. 4 in Boston.

He said he was No. 2 with the Oshawa Generals in his Major Junior days. At his first Bruins training camp he wore No. 27. No. 4 was just given to him as his permanent sweater number in Boston, as defencemen often were given single-digit numbers.

Mayor Rick Goldring was one of the people who lined up to meet Orr and get a photo taken with him.

He told the Post afterward he actually met Orr for the first time 46 years earlier.

“I was nine. It was Orr’s rookie season, March 1967.”

Goldring said he was at the old Central Arena, where Drury Lane Theatre now sits, not far from where the current arena sits, to attend Minor Hockey Day.

He walked to the old arena by himself as his father wasn’t well enough to attend. A house league player, the young Goldring sat down inside the arena and who should sit beside him doing up his skates? An almost 19-year-old Bobby Orr.

Goldring explained that back in those days the Burlington minor hockey organization often attracted star hockey players to its end-of-season celebrations.

Orr’s appearance at Leggat attracted the young and young at heart.

Garrett Barmhm brought a 1960s Victoriaville hockey stick for Orr to sign. It is the same model of stick Orr used except this one was used by Garretts’ father, Dave.

The 16-year-old had it signed to his dad, who is ailing.

“He’s so nice, a great guy. He’s ridiculous at hockey and he’s cool, too,” Garrett said of Orr, referring to the video in the dealership that constantly played highlights from Orr’s career.

Greg Peitchinis, 51, had Orr sign his still-in-the-box Bobby Orr table top hockey game from 1972.

“Think of any other sports celebrity. I don’t care if your 10 or 60, everyone knows the name (Bobby Orr) internationally,” he said.

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The Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey program has distributed 25,000 free hockey helmets to players over the last two years.

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Orr said his thoughts on how the parent-child dynamic should work in the context of youngsters playing hockey is summed up perfectly in an anonymous poem, entitled Please Let Me Live By Myself , that he likes to show people:

Well, here it is, another hockey season,

So I am writing you for just one reason.

Please don’t scream or curse or yell,

Remember, I’m not in the NHL.

I am only 11 years old,

And can’t be bought, traded or sold.

I just want to have fun and play the game,

And am not looking for hockey fame.

Please don’t make me feel I’ve committed a sin,

Just because my team didn’t win.

I don’t want to be that great, you see,

I’d rather play and just be me.

And so, in closing, I’d like to give you one tip,

Remember, the name of the game is sportsmanship.;