Artist Paul Gerben and Pastel Network Launch Digital Collection Around Hockey Legend Bobby Orr

To say the digital art and sports ecosystem has gone through murky waters this past year would be an understatement. We’ve seen the fallout from FTX, the shuttering of Silicon Valley Bank, and a consumer base of fans and collectors riddled with uncertainty around the value of their digital collectibles.

Bursting through the downfall of the once vibrant nonfungible token (NFT) market is world-renown artist, designer, and sculptor Paul Gerben, who spearheaded the launch of a digital collection around Boston Bruins Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr. Gerben is a former guest on Lights Camera Crypto and successful mixed-media artist whose NFTs have sold for between $25,000 and $250,000. His limited edition prints have been sold at auction by Christie’s to musicians, actors, executives, athletes and politicians. He was inspired to pair with Orr, who won multiple MVP titles with the Bruins and is considered by many the best two-way player of all time, and the Pastel Network to create a one-of-a-kind collection around Orr and his legacy.

Orr hopes his understanding of web3 can inspire others to not only explore his digital collection, but use it as a reason to explore the web3 space.

“This new concept of an NFT admittedly took a little time for me to understand,” Orr said to me over text. “I’m hoping if I can get the basics, anyone can. The process will be new to many, but one of our goals for our digital offering is to help sports fans become more familiar with blockchain and NFTs in general.”

The Orr Collection is the first of many Gerben has planned as he looks to make his mark on the digital sports collectible landscape. The first drop is the Orr deck, featuring 1,444 digital trading cards, followed by a series of limited edition digital and physical releases including large scale artworks, desktop sculptures, and life-size statues—each with famous action shots like Orr’s classic Stanley Cup winning dive.

In total, the collection will exist across four drops. The second will give collectors four days to burn their NFT and trade them for a physical copy print of Orr’s famous diving image—transformed into art by Gerben. The third will also give collectors four days to burn their NFTs, this time for small sculptures of the diving image. The final drop will include a five-foot sculpture of Orr, signed memorabilia, and the ultimate opportunity of attending a Bruins game with Bobby Orr himself.

“Orr wanted to do something to give back to his fanbase as a tribute to his fans while also wanting to leverage some of the web3 technologies that have emerged,” Anthony Georgiades, co-founder of Pastel Network, said to me in a recent conversation. The Pastel Network is a blockchain with tools that allow users to streamline the creation, management and minting of digital collectibles. “With our infrastructure solutions and Paul’s creativity, we decided to partner together to launch this drop and take it to market,” Georgiades said.

As part of the inaugural deck, fans can collect cards across four different tiers: Ultra Rare, Very Rare, Rare, and Common. Holders will have access to the official Bobby Orr fan club and its Discord, and select users will have access to both IRL (in real life) experiences and physical memorabilia—such as a one-on-one video call with Bobby.

“We’ll have care packages we’ll be sending to select holders that include items like signed memorabilia such as pucks, jerseys, books and other goodies,” Gerben said to me. “Small and large scale sculptures, and limited edition prints ready to go that we’ll be dishing out to holders in this community.”

Darren Orr—Bobby’s son and manager of the Orr estate—knows the importance of how a personal touch can go a long way with fans.

“Part of my father’s philosophy and his brand is his personal connection to people,” Darren Orr said to me in a recent phone conversation. “We’re really excited about the phygital realm coming together around digital art and the utility associated with it.”

To help differentiate it from other collections, Gerben enlisted musician Sean Doe to create a musical score that adds flavor and another dimension to the NFTs themselves.

“Sean Doe is one of the best at scoring film and television and is also one of the most popular New York City DJs and an incredible musician,” Gerben said. “He’s been hired to DJ exclusive parties for Saturday Night Live, HBO events for The Sopranos.”

For Gerben, a drop is more than just a visual.

“I consider every element of art important,” Gerben said. “Your eye, your ear, your touch. Just like when a great film is scored, you don’t realize how much emotional impact music gives to the piece and the feeling of the piece. Sean Doe is one of the most talented people I have ever met and truly helped make this drop distinctive.”

Athletes who are getting into the crypto space haven’t had the smoothest climb—most notably those associated with the FTX scandal such as Tom Brady. Buyers may be wary of drops affiliated with athletes, which is why Pastel aims to build user confidence through the authentication of its drops.

“There’s been a lot of apprehension in the athlete world if you look at what happened with FTX and Tom Brady,” Georgiades said. “People are pausing on this world but there’s still significant interest.”

The authentication factor that blockchain can bring to sports memorabilia may be a game changer. According to Gerben, more than 80 percent of the sports memorabilia in the U.S. is fake.

“I don’t have to worry about buying a fake signed Bobby Orr jersey or certificate,” Georgiades said. “That’s one of the aspects I love about bridging this world with web3.”

Gerben and Pastel could thus be setting a new precedent for how other athletes coordinate their digital collections and drops.

“One of the things we’re most excited about is tapping into a world of demographics that are not inclined or privy to the world of web3,” Georgiades said. “There are a lot of millennials and boomers who are massive Bobby Orr fans, and now, in a web3 world, there’s a new way to demonstrate your fandom.”

Darren Orr believes the collection marries the old school hockey fan with the new school tech gurus.

“I’ve always been proud of my father’s hockey accomplishments but also his ability to make connections with fans on a personal level,” he said. “His drop is our way of extending his legacy into the modern day digital realm and we’re excited to bridge generations of hockey fans with Pastel’s NFT innovation and Paul Gerben’s artistic vision. There’s still some figuring out to do, but with the utility we’re offering with these digital assets and the tech behind them—we have something really special.”

While special, the collection has not been without its challenges. According to Darren Orr, getting the average fan to understand blockchain and NFTs has been a struggle. He likens the situation to when people were introduced to online shopping and the skepticism that surrounded using a credit card to make online purchases for the first time.

“It was very odd and people didn’t feel good about putting their credit cards out there, but now it’s commonplace,” Darren Orr said. “In the same way, the authentication technology around blockchain is going to be commonplace eventually. If we can bridge some generations and they can see that someone like Bobby is involved, they might begin to see that getting a crypto wallet can be a simple process.”

Scroll to Top