See the Softer Side of Shore
"Do what you're told, or I'll send you to Springfield."
Words that struck terror in the hearts of many NHL players.
Springfield meant playing for Eddie Shore.
The penny-pinching ogre who forced his players to work at the arena. The man who would tie his goalies to the posts so they couldn't fall to their knees to make saves; who forced his players to take tap dance lessons; who would hobble his players with rope if he thought their legs were too far apart while skating. The heartless bastard who overrode team doctors and forced players back on to the ice, ready or not.
Eddie wasn't all bad though.
As a player, Shore was willing to help where it was needed (or where he thought it was needed). In an interview with Boston Globe reporter Leigh Montville, he said his top playing salary was $17,500. "And I gave $10,000 of that back. The team wasn't drawing too well, and I said aww what the heck and gave the money back."
According to Milt Schmidt, Eddie was "a little tough to get to know, actually, because he was by himself all the time. But occasionally you went out with him and Eddie would see fit to buy you dinner, for the rookies. He was always good to us."
And he never stopped giving back.
AHL secretary Gordon Anziano was quick to point out that although Shack did fine his players often, he also quietly made sure much of the money found its way back to the players at the end of the season. If a player had money trouble over the summer, Shore would send him an extra check. "The Indians were his boys," Anziano said.
Retired Blackhawks All-Star Bill White supports Anziano's claims. "One time, we all got fined for missing curfew in Buffalo. All but two of us were out late, but he fined all of us $300 - most of us because we'd missed curfew, the other two guys because he said they should have been with us. But right after Christmas, he gave us all bonus checks for $300. He liked to keep you off balance."
When Shore's good friend Art Chapman and his wife died suddenly, they left behind three teenaged boys. "Eddie Shore picked up the tab for the college tuition of all three of those kids without anybody knowing it," Emile Francis says.
Another time, Indians coach Doc McMurdy's son was struck in a hit-and-run. Shore quietly paid for the boy's medical expenses. When an Indians' front office worker was in a car crash that caused $500 worth of damage, Shore paid for that too.
Deciding the Springfield area needed a youth hockey program, Eddie paid for that too. He made sure the kids had equipment, uniforms, and ice time - for free. When the program was better established, he continued to subsidize it. Until his health began to really fail him, he even gave the kids instruction.
Shore's willingness to give didn't stop with money. He paid the Leafs $1,500 for a defenceman named Kent Douglas. Eddie worked with Kent privately all summer, and over the next few years, Kent was part of the Springfield Calder Cup years, named to the AHL All-Star team, and went on to win the Calder Trophy, NHL All-Star honours and a Stanley Cup. Of course, Eddie took advantage of Douglas' improvements and traded him back to the Leafs for other players, but the fact remains: had Shore not worked with Douglas, odds are he'd never have had the career he did.
Shore's dedication to hockey was complete. He gave one hundred percent, and believed everyone else should too. Odd as all of his techniques seemed, they were all designed to make players better, and by extension make the sport better.
Eddie Shore was always an enigma. No matter how you try to describe him, it will never fully capture the truth of who Eddie Shore was.
Call him a miser. Call him cruel. Call him a pioneer, a legend, the worst owner ever.
The most important word left off this list is philanthropist.
It's time to change that.