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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

TBC: Eddie Shore

With summer vacation nearly over, I thought it would be a good idea to just continue the theme of Boston Bruins/CBC stories for the remainder of the summer. This will be the second-last entry in the Teebz's Book Club Summer Literacy Project, and I feel this book might be long overdue for one of hockey's most iconic figures. Before there was Bobby Orr in Boston, another defenceman held the fans captive with his every move on the ice. He was tough, he was exciting, and he rewrote the book on how to play hockey in the early days of the NHL. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey, written by C. Michael Hiam and published by McClelland & Stewart, Limited. The stories contained within the covers of this book talk about a man who was feared for his toughness, but rarely showed how great a man he was when he wasn't on the ice. Eddie Shore's story is one that needs to be told, and I'm glad to have finally read it.

From the publisher's webpage, "C. Michael Hiam was born in 1962 in Boston and came of age as a hockey fan at the height of the Bobby Orr era, when there were no Bruins tickets to be found. As an undergraduate, however, he both played hockey and attended as many Bruins games as he could. Today, Hiam is a licensed psychologist in New York and Massachusetts, and has authored and co-authored a number of scientific articles. In 2006, his first book, a biography of a CIA analyst active during the Vietnam War, Who the Hell Are we Fighting? The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars, was published by Steerforth Press. Today, Hiam lives in Newton, MA, with his wife and three children, and on Saturday mornings is an assistant coach for the Newton Youth Hockey Association."

Mr. Hiam's writing style threw me for a loop for the first few chapters. He is very wordy in the sense that he covers all his bases. He doesn't just say that the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, but rather he covers the speed, the colour, and the species and genus of fox in comparison to the energy and agility of the species and genus of dog. In short, Mr. Hiam's 319 pages of writing could have been fit into about 100 pages.

The key is that it could have been done in brevity, but the vast information about Mr. Shore and how important he was to the early NHL stars and the Boston Bruins in particular would have been overlooked in a very tragic way. To say that Mr. Shore was important to hockey is like saying that water is important for life on Earth. Mr. Hiam's telling of Mr. Shore's life and abilities as an NHL star in the 1920s and 1930s is an excellent look at the NHL's first true superstar.

Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey starts at the very beginning of Eddie Shore's extraordinary life in Saskatchewan as a lad, through his time in Manitoba and Alberta as a youth and teen, and into his adult life in Boston as the most recognized man in Beantown through the Great Depression and beyond.

"The man from Saskatchewan was the Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb of hockey, a brilliant athlete with a temper to match, and his importance to the history of the professional game is immense. In the hockey vernacular of his age, Shore was a 'superstar' who gave the NHL visibility in new markets south of Canada, saw it the Great Depression, and sent it on its way to be the highly profitable sports empire it would become.
At first, I thought this quote would be more suitable for a player such as Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, or even Maurice Richard, but Mr. Hiam's writing reflects all of these traits in Eddie Shore throughout the book. Indeed, Mr. Shore could be considered hockey's first true superstar.

Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey is definitely for a more advanced reader, and there is a great deal of description that Mr. Hiam put into the book about the vast amount of injuries that the old-time players suffered at the hands of one another. One of the greatest triumphs of this book is that we actually get to see Eddie Shore's side in one of the most tragic incidents in NHL history.

The "Ace" Bailey incident is probably best remembered because of Shore ending Bailey's career. Bailey, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was guilty, without penlaty, of clipping Shore's head earlier in the game with his stick. Shore had taken note of this in the back of his mind. Late in the period with the Bruins on a two-man advantage, Red Horner tripped a streaking Shore heavily into the boards, and again escaped unscathed as the referees simply looked the other way.

Shore, dazed and confused, after heavily falling into the boards, got up slowly from the latest indiscretion, and looked "peeved". King Clancy had skated the puck up the ice and Bailey, having dropped back to cover Clancy's abandoned defensive post, watched his teammate streak up the ice, unaware that an enraged Shore wanted vengeance for the punishment he had taken all night.
"Bailey was watching the action unfold in the Bruins end and had his back to Shore, who, gathering speed and with his head down, charged at Bailey from behind like a bull. Shore's left shoulder slammed hard into Bailey's midsection, and the Leaf's skates shot out from under him. Bailey twisted around in the air as the crowd roared with delight, the he dropped backward, his head hitting the Garden ice with a dull thud that could be heard all over the building."
What happened next I will leave to you, the readers of this book, but there should be no doubt that Shore's intentions were not indicative of the resulting injuries suffered by Bailey. The resulting all-star game festivities to help Bailey and his family with hospital bills saw this photo snapped, but I'm quite certain there could have been hundreds others taken that showed how much influence Shore had on this game.

I have to credit Mr. Hiam for a job well done in Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey because there just aren't that many records of Eddie Shore's playing days still available for public consumption. The photos obtained by Mr. Hiam are absolutely amazing, and really should be seen by a lot more people. The story and facts contained within the covers of Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey are a testament to an outstanding researcher and writer, and Mr. Hiam's story is an excellent addition to any bookshelf or nightstand. Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for the amazing facts and interesting anecdotes about the legendary Eddie Shore!

If you're a Bruins fan, this is one you definitely want to add! And hockey fans who want a great historical look at how the game was back in its infancy should definitely add this one to their collection!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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