Bobby Orr talks Spezza, Karlsson and the future of minor hockey

As his agent, Bobby Orr has a special fondness for Jason Spezza, which is why he would fairly bristle when Spezza would get beaten up his critics, which used to happen quite often around Ottawa.

Bobby Orr talks Spezza, Karlsson and the future of minor hockey

As his agent, Bobby Orr has a special fondness for Jason Spezza, which is why he would fairly bristle when Spezza would get beaten up his critics, which used to happen quite often around Ottawa.

However, Orr, who many would argue was the greatest hockey player ever, is not so much worried about elite players such as Spezza these days.

They’ll get by. The game caters to them.

Orr is worried more about the young players who just want to have some fun playing the game and then quit because they’re not.

Hence, his long-standing involvement with the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey program, which this weekend will be holding a festival for 90 kids aged five to eight at the Nepean Sportsplex.

Orr only has to look around at players such as Ottawa’s Spezza and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty to know that Canada is still developing great young players.

But the ones who quit along the way hurt the game doubly, because they don’t even become fans of it.

“We’ve got some kids coming who are pretty special,” Orr said.

“We’ve got talented, creative players, so let’s just let them be creative.

“What we’re doing here with our kids program is making sure that coaches, parents, officials and the people that run the leagues are getting involved for the right reason, and that’s to give every child who wants to play our game a chance to play in a safe and in a fun environment.

“And unfortunately, for many, that’s not happening. The more kids we keep playing, the better chance we have of finding another Daniel Alfredsson or Jason Spezza or Erik Karlsson.

“Too many kids have bad experiences in minor hockey and walk away.”

The program has had its successes, though, and in a little bit of serendipity, Orr was told of one on Thursday. As he was interviewing Orr, Le Droit sports editor Marc Brassard noted that his son, François, who was just selected by the Senators in the June draft, had attended one of the Safe & Fun when he was six.

“When I think back to my minor hockey days, those were my fondest memories,” Orr said. “And it should be like that for every kid. Unfortunately, it’s not.”

As for his favourite Senator, who turned in one of his better seasons with 34 goals and 50 assists, Orr liked the maturity he saw in Spezza’s game.

“He’s an offensive player, and when you’re an offensive player, over the years he’s been beaten up a little bit, in my eyes sometimes unfairly,” Orr said. “But he’s an offensive player and he tries things, he tries to be creative, and sometimes it doesn’t go right.

“But I think his game today, he’s disciplined and he has grown as a player.

“Defensively, I think Jason has become a lot better player. Last season, he played as well as I’ve seen him play, and not just the points. He did a lot of things that he hasn’t done in the past.”

Orr is also particularly fond, not surprisingly, of Karlsson.

“Everything comes from his legs, and the great thing about the Senators is that they allow him to do it,” said Orr, who himself was the best skater who ever played the game. “So many times you’ll get coaches, especially with our kids, who will say, ‘Don’t skate over centre ice, just shoot it up the glass.’

“He creates, and he creates because of his speed. He jumps up into the play. That’s his game and they’ve allowed him to do that, and he’s pretty effective.

“I like him a lot as a player.”

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