Eddie Shore's Time In Winnipeg
Although born and raised in southcentral Saskatchewan, the legendary defenseman Eddie Shore spent a vital season of his hockey development in Winnipeg as a teenager.
Iconic for his toughness and defensive skill, Eddie Shore was one of the greatest defensemen of all time. He most notably played for the Boston Bruins during the 1920’s to 1940’s won Stanley Cup’s with them in 1929 and 1939. Shore won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player four times, the most of any defensemen; only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe have won it more often.
Although born and raised in southcentral Saskatchewan, Shore spent a vital season of his hockey development in Winnipeg as a teenager. He played the 1918-19 season with the Manitoba Agricultural College team and skated in two games of the 1919-20 season with St. John’s College before returning home to Saskatchewan.
The following is an excerpt from the 2011 book “Eddie Shore and that Old-Time Hockey” by C. Michael Hiam:
When Eddie turned fifteen, he was a strong and steady youth on the cusp of full manhood. His father could trust him with all aspects of ranching and gave him responsibilities, such as allocating stock and overseeing the tenant farmers, usually afforded men twice his age. Eddie fulfilled his duties with confidence and skill, and his future as a prosperous rancher was certain, just as certain as the fact that his father’s land extended as far as the eye could see. Yet, within three years, Eddie Shore, that same fresh-faced youth who was once poised to be master of all that he surveyed, would be penniless. He would not have enough money even to buy food.
Eddie’s mother, Catherine Spannier “Kate” Shore, died in 1918 at age fifty-two, following a daughter, Clara, who died in 1908, and several infant children who had died earlier, into the grave. Nothing more is known about Kate Shore, but it can be surmised that she had a strong and positive influence on her son. When Eddie got married, it would be to a woman named Kate, and throughout his life he was invariably a gentleman around women and treated them as equals.
Around the time his mother died, Eddie’s father sent him to the Manitoba Agricultural College, where his older brother Aubrey probably was already enrolled. Eddie planned on becoming a veterinarian, but for sport he tried out for the school’s football team, where he was placed in the fullback position and did most of the kicking. Eddie also tried out for, and made, the basketball team. In the newspapers at the time, he learned about the sensational Dick Irvin, Winnipeg’s hockey hero and the kind of player who could lead his team to 9–0 victories by scoring all the goals himself. Reading about Irvin’s exploits gave Eddie the “dim idea,” as he described it, to play hockey in addition to football and basketball. Aubrey was already on the college hockey team, and he candidly informed his younger brother that his hockey ambitions were, simply, absurd. This not only did nothing to quell Eddie’s hopes, but predictably it had just the opposite effect. He vowed to Aubrey that he would not only be playing hockey for Manitoba soon, but would be playing professionally in five years.
Eddie knew that hockey demanded good legs, so he started running five miles every day and spending hours in the gymnasium. He also spent time rinkside, where he studied the best skaters’ moves as they strutted their stuff. When not observing others, Eddie would practice alone on the ice and, like a fighter shadow boxing, would imagine himself checking an opponent or being checked himself. Or, he would pretend that he was dribbling through three or four opposing players and, by feinting and shifting, outwitting them to advance the puck. “That sort of thing looks ridiculous,” Shore said, “but it is valuable to any boy who wants to play hockey.”
The college had three hockey teams, and Eddie got playing time on one of the minor ones. He was properly initiated into the sport at age sixteen, when he received his first body check. Eddie would dress for games in the dormitory, then go down to the open-air rink. “Often we played at thirty to forty below,” Shore said. “Our ears, noses and cheeks used to freeze regularly, and we’d be playing a little while and you could scrape the hoarfrost off of our backs and our chests. I remember we once played a game when it was fifty-five below and our eyelashes froze so stiff we were almost blinded.”
After just one year, the budding veterinarian left the Manitoba Agricultural College for an unknown reason (his academic records are no longer extant) and enrolled at St. John’s College School in Winnipeg the following fall. St. John’s was western Canada’s oldest school, and it would become famous for turning out such hockey players as Andy Blair, Murray Murdoch, and Red Dutton. Generations of boys had learned the game on the school’s tiny sheet of ice, and, amazingly, at one point in the 1930s there were no fewer than thirteen “Johnians” in the NHL. Whether Eddie went for the hockey or for another reason is not known, but he did catch on with the St. John’s team for the first two games of the hockey season before going home for Christmas, never to return. The only record St. John’s (now the St. John’s-Ravenscourt School) has on Shore is a brief one, and it ends cryptically: “Withdrawn, Christmas 1919.”
If you enjoyed this story, then please subscribe to this newsletter. It’s free!