Eddie Shore the Greatest Hockey Player
Eddie Shore was born (November 25, 1902) and grew up in the farming community of Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, and didn’t pick up hockey until a relatively late age (18 or so) His father was a strict (but fair) man who laid the ground for Shore’s toughness later on in his life. Eddie Shore’s first sporting loves was baseball and soccer. His brother, Aubrey, was the family hockey player, and it wasn’t until Eddie had enrolled at Manitoba Agricultural College in Winnipeg and had been told by his big brother, ‘You’ll never make a hockey player,” that he began to take the game seriously.
When their nascent enterprise was not even a decade old, the founding fathers of the NHL made the bold decision to expand south of the border. The Boston Bruins became the first team outside of Canada to join the League, in 1924, to be soon followed by others.
To more than a few observers, it was a move no less risky than being a goaltender without a mask, a truth acknowledged by Frank Boucher, a star forward for the Rangers who would help them capture their first two Stanley Cup championships, in 1928 and 1933.
“In order to succeed, the League needed a superstar of extraordinary dimensions,” Boucher said.
And the League got precisely that, in the person of a defenseman from the Saskatchewan prairie in Cupar, a Western Canadian cowboy who came to the game late and grew up breaking wild stallions and hauling grain over 40 miles of dusty ranchland before becoming the pugnacious poster person for an entire sport.
Eddie Shore, the man who launched the Boston Bruins’ legendary lineage of dominant defensemen (see Orr, Bobby; Park, Brad; Bourque, Ray), was not even the best player in his family as a kid. That would’ve been his older brother, Aubrey.
The younger Shore was well into his teens before he took the game seriously, but he was a quick study. While it would be a reach to say that Eddie Shore singlehandedly put American hockey on the proverbial map, there’s no question that between his flying fists and furious end-to-end forays, he became irresistible hockey theater every time he was on the ice – a leading man for stateside hockey.
Not for nothing did he supposedly finish his 15-year NHL career with enough stitches in his face – by some counts nearly 1,000 – to make a quilt.
Or as Maurice Podoloff, former president of the American Hockey League, once said, “Eddie Shore did not walk. He stalked.”
Richard A. Johnson is the curator of The Sports Museum in Boston, a historian with encyclopedic knowledge of sports in New England.
“I always describe Shore as both the Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb of hockey,” Johnson said. “He had skill and a charisma that made you never want to take your eyes off him, and also had a competitive ferocity that created this aura of imminent dread and contention that was always present. You always had the sense that something was going to happen when he was on the ice.”
The contention, indeed, was not long in coming. Shore had scarcely introduced himself to his new teammates after being acquired from the Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Hockey League on Aug. 20, 1926, when the Bruins’ Billy Coutu took exception to Shore’s tough-guy persona, precipitating a wild fistfight that ended with one of Shore’s ears flapping like the last leaf on a tree, so far gone that team doctors wanted to sever it completely.
Shore would have none of that, finding his own doctor to sew it back on – a process Shore endured without any anesthetic.