“They always talk about Bobby Orr as being the greatest defensemen who ever played, and I wouldn’t take anything away from him. He changed hockey. He became the mobile defenseman, tremendous player. But Harvey was still a better hockey player. When you look at Harvey, he had (Jean Beliveau), (Rocket) Richard, (Henri) Richard, Bert Olmstead, Boom Boom Geoffrion and yet when (Montreal) got on the power play he was the maestro. He controlled every one of those guys."
Those are the words of Ted Lindsay in a very interesting interview with USA Today's Kevin Allen.
It is almost sacrilegious to even think there was a better defenseman than Bobby Orr, although the increasingly rare experts and fans who witnessed the pre-Orr era insist Doug Harvey was equally as special, although in a different style.
Now I never saw Harvey play, but I always placed him #2 behind Orr. I think it is great though that someone with the first-hand clout of Lindsay keeps alive the memory of Harvey's greatness.
Recently, though, I've read a lot about how a lot of Harvey's early career was clouded with criticism of his style of play by coaches, media and fans. In his own way Harvey was revolutionizing hockey, too, and the doubt about his play was likely a case of gaining acceptance.
But because Harvey faced a lot of early second guessing, lately I've been subscribing to the theory that modern contemporaries like Ray Bourque, Nicklas Lidstrom and Denis Potvin were on par with Harvey, if not better. For the most part these three players never had any complaints of weakness.
What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.
Hi Joe. In my book, Doug Harvey sits just behind Orr but ahead of those other players you mention. Harvey was the best there was for many years - bigger, smarter, tougher and you didn't mess with him. His passes were on the tape and his decisions were always right. He was the definitive hockey general. I saw him play twice but I was young and I don't remember. I also had a nice long talk wih his son last year.
But I feel Orr is the best ever. I've never seen anyone, including Bourque and these guys, who ran the show the way Orr did.
So for me, it's Orr, then Harvey, then some guys running a distant third.
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