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Eddie Shore: The First of Boston’s Superstar Defensemen

Wednesday, 11.22.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Eddie Shore: The First of Boston’s Superstar Defensemen\r\n
By John Bishop, BostonBruins.com

Baseball's Boston Red Sox have a storied tradition of great hitters playing in front of the Green Monster.

It started with Duffy Lewis, who played Fenway's pre-wall, embanked left field grass so well that they nicknamed it "Duffy's Cliff."

The tradition morphed into a legacy when the legendary Ted Williams, who used to practice his splendid swing in the shadow of the Green Monster, put on a Red Sox uniform in 1939.

And then it was the ubiquitous Yaz, Carl Yastrzemski, who was unparalleled in his ability to use the 30-foot wall to his advantage and was a Triple Crown Winner in 1967.

Should-be Hall of Famer Jim "Ed" Rice (MVP of 1978) and fan favorite Mike "The Gator" Greenwell were next in line for glory and fame.

And now with Manny Ramirez having patrolled Fenway's left lawn for several seasons, and who helped bring a sixth World Series to Boston, there is a virtually unbroken line of amazing offensive players, starting from the Red Sox inception to present day, playing the position.

An equally impressive tradition of great players has occurred on the blue line of the Boston Bruins.

Back liners Bobby Orr, Brad Park and Raymond Bourque -- Hall of Fame defensive geniuses with an almost unparalleled penchant for the offensive game are all on the tips of everyone's tongue these days.

Orr, in particular, inspires arguments about the greatest player of all time, never mind defenseman and Bruins fans know how they feel about that particular discussion.

The intimidating Eddie Shore policed the Boston blue line from 1926-1940.
But those Boston fans should always remember that it was Eddie 'The Edmonton Express" Shore who was Boston's first real superstar.

Ever since Shore joined the B's in 1926, just two years after the then "Brown & Gold" took the ice as a franchise for the first time, Boston has been a place where opposing teams simply dread to play.

Eddie Shore was born between Regina and Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, Canada (legend says he entered the world in an ox cart) on November 25, 1902.

Hockey historian Michael McKinley writes that Shore was "an eccentric hybrid of entertainer and philosopher, who made it to the big time from the disbanded Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Hockey League and quickly became a favourite of the raucus Boston Garden."

In his outstanding book Putting a Roof on Winter: Hockey's Rise from Sport to Spectacle, McKinley explains that if the Garden was "The Zoo," then "Eddie Shore was the zookeeper, bringing the hoarse groundlings to their feet with his ramrod-straight rushes, then setting up a Boston marksman for the kill with a sweet pass of the puck."

Perhaps being born in a cart lends itself to a certain amount of tenacity, if not eccentricity, and there's no doubt Shore was one of the meanest and craziest players in NHL history.

McKinley writes:

Shore was also one of the toughest pieces of meat in the butcher shop…He suffered his first of 14 broken noses at age nine, while trying to tame a wild Shetland pony…and won. The bloody triumph serves as metaphor for the hard way that was Eddie Shore's, but there's one to match each of the 978 stiches he took during his long hockey career.

You would think, that like most hockey players, Shore would have worn those stiches as a badge of honor.

Nope.

"Shore was remarkably free of scars a combination of vanity and his own medical philosophy which demanded clean stiching, then intensive massage of the wound to prevent scar tissue," writes McKinley -- who used the example of a fight the left the irascible Shore with a very badly mangled ear.

"A team doctor wanted to amputate, but shore would have none of it," McKinley explained. "He found a cooperative doctor who would sew the ear back together, and took a mirror as his only anesthetic -- so he could watch and direct the doctors stiching. 'I was just a farm boy,' he later told a reporter. 'I didn't want my looks messed up. I made him change the last stitch: he'd have left a scar.'"

Such was the story of Shore whose unique mixture of machismo and flamboyance won him many fans -- and perhaps an equal number of enemies along the way.

"Shores's celebrity and vanity conspired with [Boston] manager Art Ross to create one of hockey's most bizarre stunts," explains McKinley. "With his team already on the ice, Shore would skate out to "Hail, the Chief" wearing a toreador's cape, accompanied by a valet. The servant would unveil Shore, and friend and foe alike would howl in pleasure or derision."

Shore's flair for the dramitic went beyond the ice, as well.

In his ridiculously funnny and informative book, Open Net, the late George Plimpton wrote that perhaps "the most famous among a myriad stories about Eddie Shore involves his missing the team train to Montreal and being thus faced with getting up there on his own in a blizzard."

Plimpton wrote:
He hailed a taxi. The driver only lasted a couple of hours. He dropped out when the windshield wipers broke. The taxi stuck in the snow twice. Once Shore got out by putting branches under the rear tires; the next time he got a team of horses to pull him free. He arrived in Montreal with a frost-bitten left hand from sticking his arm out the window to rub the snow and ice off the windshield.

In his own pleasant tome, The Bruins, Brian McFarlane writes that when he arrived in Montreal just a couple of hours before the game, Shore went straigt the team hotel and fell dead asleep and slept through several attempts to wake him -- until Dit Clapper and Cooney Weiland woke him with a pitcher of cold water.

McFarlane then recounts the rest of the evening:
The story of the game was straight out of Hollywood. Shore pounded the Maroons with bodychecks that left many of them reeling…he took that offence [in his own hands] and potted the only goal of the match…In the Boston dressing room after the game, Art Ross, the Bruins' manager, approached Shore as he rested his weary legs and stripped off his pads.
"Nice game, Eddie. I'm sure glad you made it here."
"Thanks, boss," said Shore. "It's a trip I'd like to forget."
Then I've got something that'll remind you of it," Ross said, delivering the bad news. "I'm fining you for missing the…train in Boston."


Beyond the histrionics, stories and scandals, Shore's record is very impressive.

Elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945, shore remains the only defenseman in NHL history to be awarded the Hart Trophy four times as league MVP.

An eight time all-star, Shore played in 540 games for Boston, scored 103 goals, assisted on 176 others, all for a total of 279 points. Shore had 1038 penalty minutes, to boot.

And until Orr, it was Shore standard which set the tone for Bruins defensemen.

So, next time you are in the Garden, take a look up the rafters at #2 and thank the guy who personified "Eddie Shore Hockey" and thank him -- because Bruins history would be much different without him.

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