Larry Orr was a mentor to thousands of young players who came through the Peninsula Minor Hockey Association and Panthers Junior B team, including NHL scoring champion Jamie Benn and defenceman Jordie Benn of the Dallas Stars.
Orr died Tuesday night at age 73 after a battle with cancer, eight days after dropping the ceremonial opening puck before the Kraft Hockeyville exhibition game between the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks.
He was a jack-of-all-trades skate sharpener, equipment wrangler and trainer. He was praised as “Mr. Hockey” on the Peninsula by Don Cherry during the Hockeyville Coach’s Corner segment with Ron MacLean.
The Kraft Hockeyville game was held at the Q Centre in Colwood but it was won through the initiative of North Saanich and the Peninsula minor hockey association.
“Larry Orr was the Peninsula Minor Hockey Association … there was no one else like him,” said Paul Haysom, the former Victoria sports broadcaster, who came up playing hockey in the association and for the Panthers.
“Jamie and Jordie [Benn] are heartbroken. I must have 50 messages today from former Peninsula players or parents. Everybody has a Larry Orr story. I remember he would give $20 out of his own pocket to any Panthers player who scored a hat-trick.”
Orr ran the Peninsula skate shop out of the garage of his home, which was located around the corner from the Panorama Rec Centre.
“Whether it was 1 a.m. or 6 a.m., Larry would answer his door and have your skates ready for whenever you needed them,” said Haysom, the nightly news anchor for Global TV in Calgary.
“Whether you were Jamie Benn or a six-year-old rookie girl player, Larry treated everybody the same.”
Panthers general manager Pete Zubersky had known Orr since getting involved with the Peninsula organization in 1999. There was no such thing as after-hours for Orr when it came to matters of hockey and children, Zubersky said.
“If there were any kids missing pieces of equipment or didn’t have skates, for any reason, Larry would always find a way to get those for the kids so they wouldn’t go without.”
It was amazing what you could find tucked away in Orr’s garage.
“When skates didn’t fit anymore, Larry would just tell the kids to leave their smaller skates and take the bigger ones … He recycled everything,” said family friend Wayne Ruffle. “He loved the kids and touched so many lives.”
Including those of two NHLers. “Larry did a lot for the Benn brothers and they appreciate it,” Ruffle said.
Zubersky and Ruffle said a meeting will take place soon to formalize plans for a celebration of life to be held over the next few weeks at the Panorama Rec Centre.
“The Benn boys are thinking of flying in … so we are looking to work around the Dallas Stars schedule,” Zubersky said.
“Larry Orr was the most important hockey figure, in every way, on the Peninsula.”
Orr is survived by his wife, Sandy, and sons Derek and Darcy.