Wednesday

Eddie The Entertainer

Eddie Shack is one of the most colorful characters in a long list in NHL history.

Eddie's magnetic personality, desire and fearlessness made him a crowd favorite. Eddie was known for his fisticuffs, and make no doubt about it, that's why he made the NHL. He feared nobody. His battles with AHLer Larry Zeidel and many NHLers, most notably Gordie Howe, are legendary.

Eddie's brutal stickfight with Larry Zeidel, one of the toughest guys in the AHL in the era of "old time hockey" is a classic. Both were thrown out of the game, they went to their respective dressing rooms, showered, then came out to watch the rest of the game in the stands. Zeidel spotted Eddie sitting the front row of the stands, and ran after him to resume the fight. The two of them fought again, and Zeidel rationalized it by saying that "Shack was going to the NHL and I'm staying in the AHL and I probably won't get another shot at him".

Eddie could also be dirty if he wanted to. Once when Chicago Blackhawk Pat Stapleton swerved to hip-check Eddie, he took two knees in the back and Eddie's stick across his head. Stapleton had to crawl 25 feet across the ice to get to the bench.

Eddie could also use his head. During a game against the Montreal Canadiens, he took offence at Henri Richard's style. "He was out there zippin' around like he didn't have a care in the world, so I decided to bring him down to us," Eddie once said. After Eddie got a couple of shots in, Henri grabbed his arms. "We'd take two steps over here, two steps over there," Eddie said. "I said piss on this and I banged him with my head." Richard left the game with a cut over his right eye requiring six stitches. Later in the game Eddie nailed Jean Beliveau into the boards, knocking the hockey legend out for two games. During his second stint with the Leafs, Eddie injured two Rangers on one play. He elbowed Rod Gilbert and cross-checked Phil Goyette in the head, leaving both men unconscious on the ice.

As a teenager Shack was working in a coal mine and as a butcher when he decided to try out for the Guelph Biltmores. He figured he could always return to the meat cutting business, but he wanted to give hockey, his one true passion, his full shot.
Shack not only made the team but became its star. He played in the Royal City from 1952 to 1957, leading the Biltmores to an appearance in the Memorial Cup tournament in 1957.

At the time the Biltmores were a feeder team for the NHL New York Rangers. The Rangers were impressed enough to promote him to their farm team in the AHL, the Providence Reds. With a good scoring touch and his aggressive play in the corners, Shack would spend only one season in the minor leagues.

In the following two seasons in Manhattan Shack established his reputation for exuberance and zest but not for scoring. With just 16 goals over two years, the Rangers gave up on Shack. They initially tried to make a trade with the Detroit Red Wings that involved Red Kelly, the transaction was cancelled when Kelly refused to report to New York. He was finally traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs later that year in exchange for Pat Hannigan and Johnny Wilson.


Moving to the Leafs was the perfect move for Shack as he fit in with the team right away. In his first full season with the team, the Leafs brought home the Stanley Cup and won three in a row from 1961-62 to 1963-64. Shack scored a Cup-winning goal and later told the press that the puck had gone off his behind and that he was just trying to get out of the way! Shack won another cup with Toronto in 1967 before being traded to the Boston Bruins the next season.

Shack moved around to several other teams including the L.A. Kings, Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins before ending up back in Toronto as a Leaf. He retired from the game with four Stanley Cup rings and having made three consecutive All-Star appearances from '62 to '64.

It was Eddie's magnetic personality that the fans remember most. "We want Shack" was a regular chant in Maple Leaf Gardens. Eddie, living up to his nickname "the Entertainer," would occasionally stand up from his spot on the bench and lift his arms to encourage the fans to do chant louder! Another favorite move of his was to entertain the fans even when the game was over. If he was called as one of the game's three stars, he'd enthusiastically rush out to center ice, do his trademarked pirouette, and then enthusiastically skated off! The fans loved it! The fans loved him!

One night Toronto was getting trounced 10-0 late in the third and Eddie had never left the bench. The fans, to fight boredom started the chant, "We want Shack !" Coach Punch Imlach finally relented and told Eddie, "Get on the damn ice." Eddie leaped over the boards, raced around the ice to warm up and he had the fans in hysterics. They lined up for the face-off then Eddie called time and hustled over to the bench. "Coach I forgot to ask, did you want me to go for a win or a tie?"

Critics scoffed at Eddie the Entertainer. But he brought to the team a totally unique intangible. He knew how to work the fans. They loved him and he loved them. He knew how to liven up the fans which in turn would liven up his team, which ultimately helped his teams win some games.

Shack was known as a tough guy and a joker, but he was one of the greatest ambassadors the game has ever had. He became the spokesperson for countless firms and products.

Lost in all the showmanship is the fact that Shack was actually a pretty decent hockey player. He was actually a scorer in junior, but was turned into a checker when he turned pro. He played 1047 games and recorded 239 goals and was an integral part of four Stanley Cup championships.

While Shack will never get a vote as one of the greatest players of all time, but make no doubt he is a legend of hockey. . In fact Shack's status is more Legendary than many of the players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. While Shack the player might not be qualified for eternal greatness in Hockey's Hall of Fame, his incredible combination of toughness, leadership, character and showmanship may never be matched again.

Shack continues to be one of the most popular cult figures in the game long after his retirement. A regular nomad on the travelling alumni circuit, Shack is easily recognizable, either as a player or as a referee, thanks to his trademark black cowboy hat and his rollicking laugh.

Listen to CLEAR THE TRACK, HERE COMES SHACK

26 comments:

penaltykiller9 10:12 AM  

In the pre-expansion NHL it was not uncommon for players in the doghouse to sit on the bench an entire period without out taking a shift,despite only skating three lines with two spares. During Eddie Shack's career he often occupied the doghouse, particularly during his tenure with the Rangers.Eddie would still bring the crowd to their feet when as the ice was beginning to be cleaned Shack would do a few laps around the rink at a furious pace getting the Old MSG a buzz

Greg G 1:33 PM  

Eddie Shack, for me, will always be unforgettable! It's true he might not be a Hall of Famer but he is a legend of the NHL. If you saw him play you know what I mean! The first game I ever attended was in the early 60's. We got to the Stadium early to watch the warm up. I was awed by the ice and how great all of this looked and all of a sudden here comes Shack leading the way for the Leafs up the stairs and on the ice, big number 23 with his hair bouncing winds up and takes a slap shot that went all the way from the Hawks goal line to the other end of the ice, on the fly, and crashed into the glass 185 feet away! He was the first NHLer I saw in action and I was impressed! The Hawks beat the Leafs that night 6 to nothing and Bobby Hull scored a hat trick. Talk about being thrilled!

Anonymous,  4:36 PM  

I believe I saw Shack's last goal (Hockey Night in Canada)set up by Gary Saborin - am I right?

Anonymous,  10:50 AM  

My parents were very close friends of Eddie and I wondered if there was anyway I could make contact with Eddie, Dawn Cheek

John 5:24 PM  

Eddie the Shack Shack, as I have always remembered him, was once upended in a game on Hockey Night in Canada (1961-1965), probably on a Saturday night. He was hit so bad near the boards his skates shattered a panel of glass. I wish I could find a copy of that game!!!!

Anonymous,  2:26 PM  

Dawn...I should be able to help you. At which one of Eddie's NHL stops did your parents get to know him?

markostickboy@hotmail.com,  9:18 AM  

Eddie cemented my love of the game from a very early age.I met the man in 2008 or so and found him to be a very engaging character.I read his book and was impressed by his simple decency.I seen him skate once in the 80's and though long retired the man could skate.I particularly loved his glad bag commercial and still laugh at the memory of it.

markostickboy@hotmail.com

John 10:33 PM  

I just ordered the Shack book- I've ne'er seen me move so fast after reading markostickboy' post

Maybe I can track down an email address to ask him where he was turned upside down and thru the glass!?

Anonymous,  11:00 AM  

Just sold at public auction, at a charity fundraiser, an authentic Eddie Shack Maple Leaf jersey, autographed both on the front and back. It fetched $575. Cdn.

Another jersey of a current day player (2010) fetched less than half that amount at the same event.

Does that speak volumes about the staying power of my hero, Eddie Shack?

US-eh? 9:13 PM  

Just saw a replay of a 1968 game with Bruins down 2-0 to the maple leafs. With 2 minutes left and the game looking mildly interesting, though there was very little traditional hitting, I saw a guy for Boston swing his stick, in the middle of the ice, as a toronto player.
that got my attention. But not the referees. No call.

A minute later the announcers were interrupted by a brawl on the ice. Seems that that guy, number 23, was eddie shack, and the Maple Leafs, his sformer teammates at that point, took offense to his alleged stickwork. He could have taken the top of the guy's head off, no helmets either, of course.

Then he was escorted to the box, 2 minutes each for roughing and for high sticking. He was flamboyant and much more interesting than current players.

The Shack struck again.!

Anonymous,  8:41 PM  

Eddy Shack was the Groucho Marx of hockey.
He's the only player I ever saw that could check someone from behind.
How is that even possible???

John,  7:51 PM  

I just finished CLEAR THE TRACK ~ WHAT A GUY!!!!!

Anonymous,  8:01 PM  

My mom says I was related to Eddie.

Rick Buker,  9:59 AM  

Shack’s penchant for aggressive, if not downright borderline play, is well documented. However, during a game with St. Louis on January 12, 1974, “The Entertainer” outdid himself. In the late stages of a 4-2 Leafs win, the 36-year-old winger impulsively dropped his mitts. Noting that Blues enforcers Bob “Battleship” Kelly and Bob Plager (not to mention second-tier sluggers Phil Roberto and Garry Unger) were looming nearby, he wisely had a change of heart. In one of the most comical scenes in NHL history Shack shifted into full retreat, dashing the length and breadth of the ice to avoid tangling with the Blues’ toughies. All that’s missing from the video clip is the zippy closing music from the old “Benny Hill Show.” Hilarious.

Anonymous,  8:49 PM  

Shack's last goal was shown on HNIC. Play by play was Bob Cole..."Saborin to Shack in the slot, spins, shoots, scores." It was unforgettable and quite a goal.

cashphat family and friends 6:06 PM  

Y'know I'm from Pittsburgh and I've seen my share of Great hockey players but Eddie Shack by far has always been my favorite. One game I saw him skate casually back to the pens bench antagonizing the referee by sliding on and off the boards, he made me a fan of hockey for life.

Gary K,  9:05 PM  

I met Shack after an old-timers game in Revelstoke B.C..
I asked him who he thought was the best hockey player ever and without hesitation he said Bobby Orr.
Signed his book twice and I got an autographed picture of him in a Ranger uniform.
Talked to me and my wife like we were old friends. One hell of a nice guy.
By the way, its Orr hands down over Gretzky, Howe, and Lemieux.
Thanks for all the great memories Mr. Shack.

SA,  12:42 PM  

Gary K- I agree Orr was the best for 8 years.
Howe was the greatest for 20 years.

FileDesignSystems 9:17 PM  

I believe Eddie is living in Toronto now. (Dawn Cheek) from above. He grew up with my mother in Sudbury ON. She met up with him 2 summers ago (2009) while we were at our cottage just outside of Sudbury. He gave my mom (she gave to me) his autographed offical Maple Leaf Program that was published on Nov.11 1961 Toronto vs. Detroit Game it has 18 signatures including Red Kelly, Tim Horton, and Johnny Bower. What a great guy. I enjoy reading the articles on the internet about him.

digger 6:48 PM  

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't he appear in a commercial after being traded (maybe from Toronto), gazing up at the sky, and lamenting, "Sooner or later someone will do it to you?"

soko 9:20 AM  

I was told that Eddy Shack,s Mom&Dad lived in Espanola for a couple of years and that we are related to him through his Mother.I would really like to have his email address if any one out there knows what it is or how to contact him.My email is (ricksoko@gmail.com)

Jan,  1:38 PM  

I purchased a Toronto Maple Leaf signed hockey stick from 1966 with Eddie's and others signatures would like to know more about it the stick also says To Edna etc. It is a left handed stick and I dont think it was ever played with. Who can I contact to find out about this stick.

RPIC 2:54 PM  

We Want Shack !!
Come on folks....join me...I sent an email to the CBC requesting that the weekly hockey game Your Pick should include this game...

One night Toronto was getting trounced 10-0 late in the third and Eddie had never left the bench. The fans, to fight boredom started the chant, "We want Shack !" Coach Punch Imlach finally relented and told Eddie, "Get on the damn ice." Eddie leaped over the boards, raced around the ice to warm up and he had the fans in hysterics. They lined up for the face-off then Eddie called time and hustled over to the bench. "Coach I forgot to ask, did you want me to go for a win or a tie?"

Anonymous,  5:16 PM  

Spotted in Brunos on Avenue Road this afternoon - entertaining :)
he is hysterical !

duhblondy,  11:29 AM  

Anyone have a contact for Eddie Shack?? An old friend of his from Guelph is in hospital there, and it would certainly lift his spirits if Eddie could visit him for a few minutes. Email me at duhblondy@hotmail.com

Anonymous,  3:58 AM  

Long time NY Ranger fan; starting in 1954 @ the OLD MSG on 8th Ave. I remember when Ed Shack came up. Just the fact that he made it in the old 6 team league is a testament to his attributes. Just think of the impact this man would have had in todays NHL. It was a pleasure to watch you play Eddie. Thanx.

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