Before there was Bobby Orr, there was Doug Harvey, but before there was Doug Harvey, there was Eddie Shore. Aside from Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore is probably among the most well-known players of the pre-Original six era. The Saskatchewan native put up points in an era when defensemen didn’t put up many points. Shore was well built for his era, at 190 lbs despite being only 5’11”. Shore’s professional career began in the WCHL when he was 22 years old. When the league folded in 1926, Shore was picked up by the newly formed Boston Bruins and his legacy truly began.
Shore was known for both his intense and rough style of hockey as well as his unusual rushing style from the blue line, so much so that he played a bit of forward in the WCHL. Shore’s first NHL season in 1926-27 was a success that saw him score 12 goals and have 18 points, both good for 3rd in the NHL among defensemen. True to his bruising style, he also managed 130 PIM, second to only Nels Stewart and third in league history at the time.
In the subsequent season, Shore set a new NHL record with 165 PIM in his 43 games, while also finishing third in Hart trophy voting. He also tied for first in points among defensemen, tied with both Hap Day and Lionel Conacher. The Bruins were an extremely dominant team in the late 20s and Shore was a big part of that. In 1928-29, the Bruins won their division and went undefeated in the playoffs to win their first Stanley Cup. Shore was also first in points among defensemen, his 19 points being 4 ahead of King Clancy‘s 15. Shore was again third in Hart voting.
As offense exploded in 1929-30, so did Shore’s numbers, as he finished with 31 points in 42 games, behind only Clancy. The NHL’s offense sank back down noticeably in 1930-31, but Shore’s did not. He finished with 15 goals and 31 points once again, this time topping all defensemen. As a result, Shore finished 2nd in Hart voting. After tying for George Owen for 2nd in points among defensemen in 1931-32, Shore excelled even more in 1932-33, scoring what would be a career high of 35 points in 48 games. More importantly, Shore finally won the Hart trophy at 30 years old after being so close so many times.
The 1933-34 season was uneventful for Shore from the perspective of offensive production, but had another significant story. In December of 1933, Shore hit Leafs forward Ace Bailey from behind. Bailey was knocked unconscious when his head hit the ice. Leafs tough guy and star defenseman Red Horner retaliated by slamming his fist into Shore, knocking him to the ice, also making him unconscious. While Shore wasn’t seriously injured, Bailey was, prompting the Ace Bailey Benefit game in February 1934. Shore was suspended for 16 games by the NHL and so only played 30 games in that season. The Benefit game produced one of the most iconic photos in hockey history when Bailey, in full suit, and Shore, in hockey gear for the game, shook hands to make amends.
The next season saw Shore return to form, with 33 points in 48 games, but also a shockingly low 32 PIM. Shore again led the league’s defensemen in points and won his second Hart trophy. Shore’s value to a strong Boston team continued to be recognized as he followed that up with a third Hart trophy in 1935-36, when his 19 point were good for third among defensemen in the NHL. After a poor season in 1936-37, Shore bounced back for his fourth Hart trophy in 1937-38, at the age of 35. Only defenseman Herb Gardiner, who had won the award 11 years prior, was as old when he won the Hart. To this day, no player has won it at an age older than 35.
Shore was surprisingly able in the 1938-39 season at the age of 36 and while he didn’t win another Hart, he did help the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup. In the following season Shore decided to leave the NHL and purchase the Springfield Indians of the AHL where he played both the roles of player and owner. Not wanting to lose their star player, the Bruins worked out a deal where Shore would play only home games, so he could also play for Springfield in the AHL. Shore would be traded to the New York Americans partway through and would help the team make the playoffs.
After that wild year, Shore decided to retire from the NHL to focus on his AHL team. Shore would play until he was 39 and then coach Springfield, now relocated to Buffalo and called the Bisons, to an AHL Calder Cup. The Indians would be brought back in the late 40s and Shore would remain involved as an owner, and sometimes a coach up until 1976 when he finally sold it. Shore’s effect on the AHL got him recognized and the AHL now awards the Eddie Shore Plaque to the best defenseman in the AHL.
As a testament to his playstyle, when Shore retired in 1940, his 165 PIM in 1927-28 was still the second highest total in NHL history, next to only Red Horner. His 1047 PIM was also second to only Horner. A playmaking sort of defenseman, Shore retired first in career assists and points, just one point ahead of Clancy. His point record wouldn’t be surpassed for five years until Flash Hollet finally passed his total. Shore also retired with the best single-season assist total for defensemen at 27 in his stellar 1932-33 season. He also held the second highest total at 26 assists.
Shore played in an era without the Norris trophy, but it’s reasonable to assume he would have won at least four of them had the award existed in his era, since he won four Hart trophies. His four Hart trophies are only surpassed by Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky, placing him in a very esteemed category. Shore was the fifth player in NHL history to have their jersey number retired when the Bruins retired his No. 2 in 1947. Shore was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.