In the 1968–69 season, second-year defenceman Bobby Orr scored 21 goals, an NHL record for a defenceman, en route to winning his first of eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the league's top defenceman. At the same time, Orr's teammate, Phil Esposito, became the first player in league history to score 100 points in a season, finishing with 126 points. He was one of three players to break the century mark that year, including Bobby Hull and 41-year old Gordie Howe.
A gifted scorer, Orr revolutionized defencemen's impact on the offensive side of the game, as blue-liners began to be judged on how well they created goals in addition to how well they prevented them. Orr scored the Stanley-Cup-winning goal in overtime of the fourth game against the Blues in 1970, which gave the Bruins their first championship in 29 years. The goal was highlighted by his famous flight through the air after being tripped up following his shot. Orr twice won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, still the only defenceman in NHL history to do so. His plus/minus of +124 in 1970–71 is a league record. Orr signed a five-year contract that paid him $200,000 per season in 1971, the first $1 million contract in league history.
Chronic knee problems plagued Orr throughout his career. In 1972, he tore ligaments in his left knee after a hard hit, leading to the first of six knee operations. He played 12 seasons in the NHL before injuries forced his retirement in 1978. Orr finished with 270 goals and 915 points in 657 games and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player three times. The customary three-year post-retirement waiting period for entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame was waived as he was enshrined in 1979.