Bobby Orr’s connection to Massachusetts General Hospital runs deeper than its location in Boston.
In the mid-1970s, as Orr grappled with the knee injures that ultimately derailed his Hall of Fame career, it was Dr. Carter Rowe — a renowned surgeon who practiced at Mass. General at the time — who was entrusted with the task of operating on Orr, a responsibility he shouldered three times.
As the hospital now grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Orr penned a heartfelt letter to offer his encouragement to those on the front-lines of the pandemic.
“This message is for everybody currently on the front lines at Mass. General, doing what you all do so well,” Orr wrote in a letter posted to Mass. General’s website. “Thank you to the physicians, nurses, technicians, custodians, administrators, supply handlers — everyone there who is contributing in these unprecedented times.
“The battle against COVID-19 could never be managed without your tireless dedication, and please know that the people you serve understand your commitment, and we do not take it for granted. This pandemic has yet [again] demonstrated what everyone at Mass. General is made of as you go about your daily routines.”
As of Monday night, 13,837 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts, according to a database maintained by the New York Times, and at least 260 people have died.
Orr, who turned 72 last month, spent the 10 best years of his legendary career playing in Boston for the Bruins. Throughout his 10 seasons there, he revolutionized how hockey was played with an electric two-way game defined by his rapid acceleration and open-ice artistry. A half-dozen games into the 1978-79 season, Orr was forced to retire due to his knee injuries — despite the best efforts of Dr. Rowe.
But his style of play lived on, and influenced countless defenceman since Orr hung up the skates. To him, though, changing hockey isn’t what makes a hero.
“You are not only saving lives at your wonderful facilities — you are also protecting so many more people beyond your hospital walls as a function of your best efforts.
“It strikes me that the word ‘hero’ is often used to describe athletes in our society, but in my eyes, YOU are the true heroes that I personally look up to and [you] are constantly on my mind. This virus is no game, so we need real life heroes to step up and bring it under control. Thankfully, that is exactly what you are doing.
“Undoubtedly, the days and weeks ahead will test us all in many ways. But none will be tested more than those of you who continue to manage, treat and research the virus day after day after day. Given your efforts and expertise, I have great confidence in the eventual outcome of this pandemic, in no small measure because of the excellence I have personally witnessed at Mass. General.
“To all of you, please keep on fighting the good fight, and thank you so much for all you do.”