August 28, 2013

Bobby Orr's Summer Camp

Many of you undoubtedly have fond or not-so fond memories of summer camp from your youth. I never got to go to one, but I sure know which one I would have chosen if I could have gone! Bobby Orr's very own sports camp for boys!

From 1966 to apparently as late as 1988, you could have gone to the Bobby Orr-Mike Walton Sports Camp on the shores of Lake Couchiching in Orillia, Ontario.

The camp, which featured 180 acres and 2 miles of sandy beach frontage at Owissa Lodge, ran nine weekly sessions of camping for boys between the ages of 7 and 14. I found an old advertisement stating the prices, although I am not sure which year it is from. Prices were $140.00 for a one week session and $270.00 for two weeks. Talk about a bargain!

Obviously hockey played a starring role in this sports camp. Orr and Walton were the lead instructors, while Bill Watters and later Tom Watt served as the camp director and Bob Haggert was the camp administrator. Several NHL players assisted the hockey program over the course of the summer, including Terry O'Reilly, Dale Tallon, Marcel Dionne, Billy Harris, Syl Apps Jr., Dave Burrows, Rick MacLeish, Jim Rutherford and John Garrett. Every camper received at least two hours of on-ice instruction each day.

When Orr and company bought the land there was a 4 sheet curling rink included. The Orr group turned that into a hockey rink.

There were also up to ten other live-in instructors were there all summer for water and land activities not pertaining to hockey. Non hockey activities included boating and water safety, including learning to operate a canoe and going water skiing. Somehow they also found time to teach tennis, golf and basketball too.

Saturday nights were for triple-header movies, while Sunday was campfire night. Busses would take the boys to church, if they so wished. Special outings were also planned, including visiting historical Native Canadian villages, taking scenic boat cruises, going to baseball games and stock car races and even going to Team Canada's practice in 1976.

This whole sports camp, including the property, was purchased by Bobby Orr Enterprises. If I am not mistaken, that was the company Alan Eagleson set up in Bobby's name and abused liberally.  Walton, another Eagleson client, was said to own just 5% of the company. Apparently Eagleson sold the property in 1988 to property developers and he probably made an absolute killing on the investment. Whether Orr and Walton ever saw their proper return out the deal remains a mystery to me. Apparently the land remained untouched and was again for sale in 1993.

How cool would a summer camp run by Bobby Orr be? Well, maybe not as great as it sounds. According to Stephen Brunt in the book Searching For Bobby Orr, "Bobby wasn't all that enthusiastic about putting in the hours."


Kevin aka "yathehabsrule" said...

That's pretty cool Joe. I grew up at the other end of Lake Simcoe from Orillia, and had no idea Orr had a camp there..

You should check with Dennis Kane, as he lived in the Orillia area back in the day.

He may have more ads, etc.in his many scrapbooks from his time in the Sunshine City.

jerry said...

i went to this camp for years it was great.all the pro talent you got to meet as well as spending time with your lifelong idol bobby orr.
got to meet andre the giant as well as other wrestlers.all the great hockey players that shakey walton and bobby orr were able to get was amazing

Paul said...

Hey, I went there as a kid the year was when Bobby had his first knee scope, so he did'nt do much ice time, but as a golie, I remember him in shorts and sneekers walking out and taking a few wrist shots on me from center ice,,keep in mind I was only a kid,man what a shot from there,,hurt like heck but I never said a thing. I remember we scrimished the pros, and they played with a open net, in fact I triped Walton with my stick and he got so mad, but tried not to show it. I had my mask made there by Greg Harrison and still have it to this day, a Doug Favel model. I could go on and on, I remember it like it was yesterday. We spent 2 weeks there, my brother and I, what a treat. They broke down the camp kids into teams, I was so lucky playing for the B's. Thanks Bobby for all the great memories, and being from outside Boston, the CUP. Hey Bobby do you still have that old yellow corvet? I have some unreal pictures of you in it. I was wondering can you tell me where I can find an old 45 copy of the song "The Boston Dandy" God Bless Bobby and you too Mike, and the rest of you all for being part of my life and making me grow up right. God Bless

The Bobby Orr Hall of Fame said...

In Bobby Orr's hometown of Parry Sound, Ontario you can stop by and visit the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame! For all those collectors and aficionados, this is a great place to visit to view #4's memorabilia.

Anonymous said...

I was 11 yrs.old when i went to this camp and now i am 52 and i still remember my time there it is were i learned how to water ski. To this day i still have the patch and yellow wind breaker they gave for attending the camp. Great time and memories.GO BRUINS

Anthony said...

In 1976, 3 friends and I went to this school from New York. I was 16 and it was the greatest time of my life. I remember meeting so many wonderful, and talented people. Dale Talon, Pat Boutette, Jack Valiquette, Jim Rutherford, and so many more! Andy Olsen from the Hershey Bears was our team leader. I still have the photo with Bobby Orr and Shakey Walton!! For those who were there that summer, you can never forget our trademark, "silent cheer" we started on the ice!
God Bless Everyone from that place! Anthony D

Shaftesbury said...

A good friend of mine attended this camp in 1974 and maintained that is was awesome and the Bobby Orr was engaged and incredible with the Kids ... so there !

David L said...

I had the privilege of going to this camp in 1973 . My fondest memory was while playing as a young goal tender I had to go up to Bobby Orr and tell him I needed to go to the locker room to pee! Bobby took my goalie gloves and put them on and then took my goalie stick and filled in for me while I relieved myself.
This camp offered so many activities and great memories as a young hockey player.

Unknown said...

I went to this camp 2 years in a row I remember Jim shone field getting his jaw broken and I was pretty happy about that being from Boston and all I also remember my worst dream come true and crying like an infant when bobby signed with the Blackhawks I was their.rot in hell Alan eagalson

David Pike said...

David Findlay, Ohio said, I went to this camp in 1974. I remember ice time in the morning and afternoon.We had to swim each day in the coldest lake water I've ever been in. Waterpollo, skiing, and sailing. That's when a company called Hobie gave the camp it's newest invention, "Wind Surfers" to demo to the campers to see if we liked them.I remember thinking they were too unstable and would never make it!Boy was I wrong! I still have my CCM wooden stick signed by Bobby and Mike along with my Lange skates with no plastic on the blades. I get some strange looks when I take my kids skating in Atlanta Ga. I too met Andre the Giant that summer! Fond memories!

Warren Shaw said...

Bobby Orr by all accounts was a wonderful ambassador of the sport and the camp would be full if they still had it now.
The memories we keep as children are priceless and Orr helped cement them.

Bob Kirby- Newfoundland said...

In 1977 my Dad came to both my brother(13) and I(12) and asked us if we would like to go to the Bobby Orr-Mike Walton Sports Camp. We were both hockey nuts so he never had to worry about a 'no' answer. We were very surprised at the size of the camp but most different for us was when our parents dropped us off and left us in the camp for the week. They had everything there. We saw both Bobby and Mike, Darryl Sittler, Bobby Hull, Mike Palmateer, Dale Talon, Bruce Boudreau and many other. Bobby wasn't on the ice as he was a Blackhawk then and had the knee surgery. It was the highlight of my hockey career. My parents went out of their way to make this a memorable event and to this day we have the jackets, pucks, registration forms and list of who was in the camp with us, pictures with Bobby and Mike by the big puck. Wow! I never forgot the airline strike as well while we were there and we had to hang around Toronto till the strike was over and I even got to see Maple Leaf Gardens. Brings me back to 1977.

Anonymous said...

me an my brother went for two weeks an saw andre the giant fight a bear we will never forget that . we also met terry oreilly, told him our father had season tix , he said next game you guys go to a bz game stand on the boards at the end of warm up , we did an he flipped us both a puck , i got mine autographed by bobby an espo . i see bobby every summer at golf tourneys an all i have to say is andra vs. the bear an he smiles an remembers who i am. we were very lucky to go as younsters ....

Anonymous said...

It was definitely a summer to remember….went there a couple of summers for 2 weeks each. Of course, the attraction was to get to meet Bobby, and chat with him as a group and one on one…but, the highlight was having him show up on the ice. His calmness and patience was amazing…he could give you a couple of pointers to improve your game, and he would actually watch the play and scrimmages, and even offer some feed back. The whole experience..was a bit out of sorts….since they advertised it as a sports camp….we got to experience a lot of various sports and activities, and met a lot of other kids from other parts of Canada, the midwest and northeast. Great memories.

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading these posts.

I also went to the Orr Walton camp and still have some memorabilia.

Lots of fun memories.

The one gentleman Paul actually vaguely sounds familiar as I recall a person with a mask as he described from the US.

It was promoted as the "caviar camp" as I recall and despite never having any there, it did indeed live up 100% to its billing as a "summer to remember".

PS. The one unusual item to me was the lousy quality steaks, which puzzled me even as a kid, as we were generally all in quite unique positions as a kids and this was the most expensive camp - $215 a week in 75/76 as I recall. Bobby....why the poor cuts of beef?

Bernard said...

I attended the camp back in about 1968.Being from the Boston area hockey was huge back then.I played for a few different teams every season and one year my dad asked if I wanted to go to a camp during the summer.I declined because we lived on a lake down on the Cape in the summer and I had all the fishing and water skiing I wanted.Then he said something about a hockey school with Bobby Orr and I about fell on the floor.I loved the camp and still remember it in my minds eye.I went for a few years, played down in Providence and A few years later I was in the Marine Corps and had to grow up fast.But I will never forget my time skating with the best of the best those years !

Kyle Carlson said...

One of the best weeks of my life. The summer long campers told me I would never see Bobby Orr yet he was there 3 out of 7 days. He arrived one day in a helicopter to film a Buick commercial. The day I arrived kids where yelling and screaming about a bat. So I reached into my bag and pulled out a glove and dropped the thing and when I picked it up and throw it outside I was promptly grabbed by the neck and told to wash my hands. On the ice I was once hip cheched by Bobby himself, what a great week! Being from the Boston area this was even more special. Thanks to my parents for making this possible for me. This is something that I talk about till this day. And I need to apologize for breaking the sink off the wall.

James Carabello said...

I grew up in Lynnfield Ma. Carl Yazstemski lived three doors down the street and we played touch football in his backyard of the first house he had in the Grant as kids. I remember looking through his basement windows at his trophy's.

Many of the Bruins lived in Lynnfield, and also played golf at the Colonial where I caddied.

I attended the Bobby Orr - Mike Walton sports camp for two weeks in July of 1969. Bobby and Mike were on the Ice for every session. I remember one day Bobby sent a wrist shot from one corner of the rink to the other, and it hit a kid in the ankle-oops.

I was messing around that day on the Ice and was told to go to the locker room by one of the counselors. 15 minutes later the counselor comes into the locker room and see's me packing my gear.

Since it was mid-week he asked me what I was doing. I told him I'm going home. He got nervous and the next thing I know Bobby is sitting next to me asking me to explain why I'm packing my gear.

I told him my father was coming to pick me up early. Bobby met with my father when he arrived that day, and found out why I was really leaving.

Appropriately name "Sports Camp" because we played a lot more than just Hockey. They kept us very busy. Are days were full of activities, and we all slept well.

This would be my first plane trip, and the first time I water skied, but at the end of the day I will never forget just sitting next to one of the greatest players to play the game, just me and him.

Thanks for the memories!!!

Chuck Shumilak said...

I spent one July at The Hockey Ranch in Pickering Ont. and i have a photo of Bobby and me togeather. Was that his camp too?

Anonymous said...

Boston guy. I went there in 1971 or 72. It sucked big time. The brochure never told you it was a half rink. Curling rink turned into a hockey rink, no Zamboni. Food was terrible if you could get any, starved the entire week. We won the Orr/Walton games so we got a steak the last night, Dan and Don Maloney were awesome as was Rutherford.

Anonymous said...

I went to Orr-Walton Sports Camp in 1973 and 1974. The second year I stayed for 4 weeks. It was a great time. There were real NHL players there all the time. Bobby Orr was there lots too. My second year, Dave Maloney was my councilor, I think he was only 17 at the time. He borrowed my best sweatshirt and to this day has not returned it. I plan on showing up one day at MSG Radio studios and asking him for it!! Larry Kahn, White Plains, NY

Anonymous said...

I went for 6 summers for a month each time...It was a way for me to learn English...so my parent said..I think it's because they wanted some piece and quiet. I have nothing but great memories from this camp. My first picture with Bobby Orr shows that I'm shorter than him and the on last picture I'm much taller. Because I'm french and all I could say was tomorrow Booby found that funny and kind of took me under his wing. anyway great camp I was pretty at playing tennis so every evening I played against Bobby, we packed up teams during the evening and play a game, reserve for those were of good caliber and I will always remember when back on the bench Bobby told me good shift Marc...to this days I still remember this moment....He used to call me pissou which in french means your chicken...it's only later once my English got better that I realized he was calling me pea soup.....apparently French people eat lots of pea soup !! anyway great camp great memories....Marc

Tx9jbb said...

I went there in 74 with my buddy Pat from junior high. We drove up from Rhode Island and stayed one week. It’s still the only time I’ve been to Canada ����. The Maloney brothers were there every day. Joked with Don about the girls in Providence we would fix him up with. Had a great week. What a thrill when Bobby Orr showed up. He was friendly with us very down to earth. Never forget that memory 46 years ago.

Unknown said...

To: Bobby Orr and Mike Walton,

I wanted to thank you and share with you a story about generosity and compassion that is still with me after these many years. In 1973 my brother, Brian at the age of ten was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor that would take his life in one short year. A strong and athletic kid who absolutely loved hockey would have to bravely face and endure an on-slot of doctors and treatments that sadly offered no cures. So young, it's almost unfathumable.

Like most ten year old hockey players, Brian loved everything hockey. Either going to games at the Forum, playing on his school hockey team or playing with friends on a make shift ice rink in someone's back yard. It wasn't hard to see that he had coordination and the tough kid quality that brought out the best in him. Dad an athlete himself was inspiration enough to remind us of the great strength and great rewards that come from trying our best. Brian embodied that.

I'm not sure how but someone at the Orr-Walton hockey camp found out about Brian's love of hockey and his illness and arranged to have him taken by helicopter from our summer cottage to their camp for the day. I remember the helicopter, where they set it down and the crowd of us waving good bye as Brian and my mum flew away. This gift to him, a dream come true with the love and kindness shown to him makes my heart so full still even today. The BIG hearted hockey legends Bobby Orr-Mike Walton will always be remembered as incredible hockey players as well as the guys who brought true joy to a young enthusiast.

Thank you for your exceptional kindness.


Victoria Taylor (Brian's sister)