Former Saskatchewan NHLer Bill Orban still calls hockey rink home

Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Regina, Bill Orban’s life has revolved around the rink.

These days, however, the spotlight isn’t quite as bright when he laces up his skates.

“It’s less pressure,” Orban joked.

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Nearing his 79th birthday, Orban is a staple in the Saskatoon 60+ Hockey League creating line rushes with friends every week, including some who have shared the sport together for decades.

“I look forward to it,” said Orban. “It’s a good workout, it’s something I’ve done ever since I was a kid and I thoroughly enjoy it. The reason why we have the league and why it’s so successful … the glue is the love of the game.”

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It was that passion that drove him to the pinnacle of the sport in the National Hockey League, suiting up in 114 career games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars between 1967 and 1970.

Over that stretch, he scored eight goals and 23 points while playing alongside Hockey Hall of Famers like Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull with the Blackhawks.

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“I remember my first year that I played in the NHL with Chicago,” said Orban. “It was playing against players that I used to collect their hockey cards and that I used to dream about, following them on the radio with their games. So, it was a bit of a thrill for me to be able to play against players that I admired and watched when I was a younger boy.”

Orban’s competitive career ended in 1975 after stops in the Central Hockey League and American Hockey League, winning the latter’s Calder Cup with the Springfield Kings in 1971.

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He later returned to his home province, but not before creating friendships and memories that he still hangs onto all these years later.

“It’s a bond,” he said. “With every championship that you win and for every team you play for, it’s a family.”

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Orban doesn’t expect to slow down playing in the Saskatoon 60+ league and has taken part in several old-timers games, including a showcase in Martensville last month for Hockey Day in Saskatchewan.

The former NHLer said his teammates these days still have the same love for the game he does, which keeps him coming back to the rink each year.

“We got guys here that are 89 years old playing – 79 is probably the youngest,” he said. “We’ve been on skates probably ever since we were five years old. So, it’s just a fellowship that’s good for our health and we thoroughly enjoy it.”

Click to play video: 'Hockey Day in Saskatchewan festivities underway in Martensville'

Hockey Day in Saskatchewan festivities underway in Martensville

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