Colton Orr says he has two main goals in mind as he exchanges his Toronto Maple Leafs jersey for a Toronto Marlies one.
The first is to get himself in game shape after spending much of the season in the pressbox as a healthy scratch. The second is to change his game, mainly because it apparently is no longer in vogue in the National Hockey League.
“The game’s evolving and changing, so you kind of have to go with it,” the 29-year-old enforcer said shortly after his first morning skate with the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate on Friday at the Ricoh Coliseum. “I’m never going to give up. I’m going to keep working and do what it takes … and see where it goes.
Hockey is a beautiful game. When skilled players are allowed to do their thing, there’s no team sport I’d rather watch. Gretzky and Lemieux in 1987, for instance.
So it’s painful to watch what the NHL markets as its main product — to the extent that we can even agree on what that is. Because if it’s genuinely trying to sell hockey as a spectator sport, you really have to wonder why it continues to tsk tsk, wink wink at fighting. Concussions, horrific injuries, whatever. It’s clearly prepared to live with that if the fans like it and it puts bums in seats.
It’s not even clear whether Sidney Crosby will ever be the same player again. God knows, I’ve been clear in my contempt for the Cherryfication of hockey. If not for his malignant influence, the game wouldn’t need enforcers like Colton Orr.
(And @mirtle makes good points about Brian Burke’s role in this, and about replacing him on the fourth line with some skill players, although one wonders just how much of an impact those “skill” players have had, given the Leafs’ record on the PK.)
Again, though: that’s not a knock on guys like Orr. As I’ve argued, they don’t make the game what it is, and if there’s a shittier job in professional sports, I don’t know what it is. Colton Orr knew what his job was and did it quietly, effectively, and without complaint. Unlike some guys who’ve held that role with the Leafs, he was never a loudmouth or a showboat about it.
I hope he’s successful. In the meantime, one of my favourite Colton Orr moments: