Book Review: Eddie Shore

Over a hundred years after his birth and more than a quarter-century after his death, Eddie Shore has finally been the subject of a full-length biography. Author Michael Hiam, in a book rich in original source material, portrays Shore as more than the one-dimensional hard case that terrorized opponents on the way to building a legend as the meanest man on skates.

Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey paints a picture of a man victimized by his reputation, one that was not wholly deserved in the author’s opinion, portraying the subject as a man who rarely initiated on-ice unpleasantness but had absolutely no qualms about visiting retribution upon the heads, limbs and bodies of those that did him wrong.

Using original newspaper and magazine articles as well as interviews with family members and others who knew Shore well Hiam gives his readers a glimpse into the portions of Shore’s life that was lived away from the ice, an area that has gone all but unexplored until now.

Hiam revisits most of the familiar incidents that serve as building blocks to Shore’s popular reputation – the set-to with veteran Billy Coutu that led to the defenceman supervising the work of the physician who volunteered to try reattaching it, motoring from Boston to Montreal in a driving blizzard after missing the team train and doing most of the driving after the cabbie he’d contracted decided conditions were far too adverse for him to continue, the Ace Bailey hit that came close to killing the Toronto forward, his battles with the Bruins over salaries and the decision to become an owner of the AHL Springfield Indians that resulted in the him leaving the Boston organization to suit up for the New York Americans for his final NHL games and the manner in which he ran the many teams he in which he had had an interest over the years.

Fans of the rough and tough Eddie might be surprised to learn that he had an artistic side to his character and was an enthusiastic, if less than proficient saxophonist, enjoyed dancing and that he was not always the best-paid player in the game, picking up as much or more cash in Boston pool halls than he did for donning a Bruins sweater in his early years, returning home to Saskatchewan to invest it in agricultural land every spring.

Despite making his living in the rough and tumble hockey world, Shore seems to have had a great respect for women, treating them as equals and always addressing them using the politest language according to Hiam.

Shore is also seen as a devoted family man, marrying Kate Macrae, a former member the Edmonton Commercial Grads, Canada’s top women’s basketball team in 1929. The marriage was a happy one but lasted less than two decades, with Kate dying of breast cancer while still a relatively young woman.

The man who charged visiting teams extra if they wanted the lights turned on while they practiced in Springfield or hot water in the showers afterwards wasn’t always a penny-pinching demagogue, according to Hiam, who mentions that Shore opened his rink to minor amateur youth leagues at no cost to the participants and frequently helped out former players who were down on their luck.

The book also provides a glimpse into the early years of the Bruins and shows how important Shore was to the franchise. As its marquee player and a lightning rod for the venom of opposing fans, he filled Boston’s home rink with supporters and, perhaps more important to the sport as a whole, packed rinks around the NHL with fans hoping that they’d get to witness Shore being carried off the ice on a stretcher. Hiam also provides ample anecdotal evidence that the referees who were quick to thumb Shore off for offences gave those who trespassed against him a lot more leeway.

A long overdue examination of an exceptional athlete and unique individual, Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in Eddie Shore, the Boston Bruins or the days when hockey was a blood sport.

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