a town of 592, tiny
Cupar in Saskatchewan
has got one heck of a lot
of hockey history
of the top four defenceman in the NHL history played the bulk
of their careers with the Boston Bruins, but only one of them
got his start in Cupar. Sask., a town of 592 that is honouring
his memory this weekend.
Orr, the top-rated defenceman of all time, was from Parry
Sound, Ont. Ray Bourque, man of the recent moment with the
Colorado Avalanche, after spending all those years in Boston,
is a Montrealer. On The
list of the greatest NHL players of all-time, Orr is the highest
ranked defenceman, at No. 2 overall, Shore is No. 10 and Bourque
No. 14. The only other defenceman in this heady company is
Doug Harvey, the former Hab, who rates out a No. 6.
today belongs to the Shore family and Cupar, which happens
also to be this reporter's hometown, situated across the Qu'Appelle
Valley from Regina, grain and hockey and high sky country.
There's been an organized senior team, a town team, in Cupar
continuously since 1907 and it was Eddie's father, T.J. Shore,
a cattle and horse man, who financed the first indoor rink
in town, built in 1911. These days, senior hockey struggles
to survive in some parts of Canada, but Saskatchewan is a
bastin of the full-contact game (as opposed to ubiquitous)
played by men willing to drive through blizards for little
more compensation than the opportunity to knock heads. The
rink represents community now, as it did back then.
up the way in Fort Qu'Appelle in 1902, Eddie grew up on the
huge, six section family spread outside Cupar, showing little
aptitude for hockey until relatively late in his childhood.
(T.J., by the way, would loose the family fortune in a B.C.
bolt business, leading to his suicide.) When he took to the
game, though, young Eddie did so with a ferocious passion
that would make him stand apart even from his Hockey Hall
of Fame colleagues.
he provided inspiration for everyone who ever would don the
sweater of the Cupar Cubs, or as they later became known,
the Canucks ... some 250 ex-players and families are gathered
this weekend to celebrate the naming of the sports complex
in honour of the Shores. (Oldtimers say Eddie's older brother
Aubrey may well have been the better player, but he never
fully realized his potential. It is also said that Aubrey's
taunts may have led to his brother becoming obsessed with
excelling at the game.)
father was one of those kind of people, if you tell him he
couldn't do it, he was gonna do whatever it took to do it,"
says Eddie Shore Jr., celebrating his 71st birthday this weekend.
"When he was told, you'll never make a hockey player,
well, that was either the right thing or the wrong thing,
depending on how you look at it."
Shores played for a Cupar team that made an impression beyond
the town's size, sometimes in those early years playing against
Moose Jaw and Regina and Saskatoon, traveling by train with
townspeople in tow. It was the high life, as good as it got
in the long prairie winter. The brothers Shore and the lads
were celebrities. Eddie, at age 21, eventually was recruited
by the semi-pro Melville Millonaires, then moved on to the
fully-pro Regina Capitlals and Edmonton Eskimos, before being
purchased by the Bruins for the 1926-27 season:
He would win four Hart Trophies in th 1930's, as the league's
MVP (Orr received only three).
as Orr is remembered for revolutionizing the defence position
by leading rushes into the other's team zone. Shore was the
first to do so regularly, 40 years earlier. He'd shoot wide
of the net intentionally, then swoop in to pick up his own
rebound. He skated in a crouch, which made his balance ...
and delivered devastating punches.
all of 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, was a brutal and feared opponent
with a pain threshold measured on the Richter scale. Today's
game is milquetoast by comparison with his heyday. In his
first training camp with the Bruins, Shore scrapped with teammate
Billy Coutu, winding up with an ear so damaged team doctors
said he'd have to have it removed.
Shore found a doctor who would agree to try to reattach the
ear and eschewing an anaesthetic, asked only for a mirror
so he could wathch and make sure the job was done neatly because,
he said he was "just a Prairie boy who did not want his
looks messed up.
fans of the time especially detested Shore because it
was his dirty hit on Ace Bailey that fractured his skull and
effectively ended the latter's career in 1933.
What's less known is that Red Horner of the Leafs subsequentlhy
decked Shore with a right uppercut that resulted in the Bruin
suffering a bloody head injury of his own
was suspended 16 games (out of a 44-game schedule), spending
most of the time in hospital recovering from his own injuries,
and would then become one of the first NHL players to wear
a helmet. Bailey's father, as the story goes, was listening
to the game on radio back in Toronto and became so incensed
he packed a bag, and a gun, for Boston. Leaf team officials
intercepted him at the airport. No harm done.
partial list of other injuries suffered by Shore includes:
80 cuts requiring 978 stitches, fractures to vertebrae, hip
and collarbone, a nose broken 14 times, a jaw fractured five
times. Before his death in 1985, Shore had survived cancer
surgery and eight heart attacks.
got caught in traffic and missed the train from Boston to
Montreal one day in January, 1929. A wealthy friend provided
a limousine and chauffeur but Shore wound up doing most of
the driving throughout the night and most of the next day
in a blizzard, going off the road many times and once hiring
a team of horses (for $8) to drag the car out of a ditch.
He made it to the hotel in Montreal at 5:30 p.m., ate a steak
dinner, had a nap then scored the only goal in the Bruins
win over the Canadiens.
held out for more salary virtually every year of his playing
career, 15 seasons in Boston. Later, as brilliant, innovative
and eccentric owner of the Springfield Indians, his tyrannical
ways would help lead to the formation of the NHL Player's
Association. One of his pupils was career minor-leaguer Don
Shore method of developing players included making them tap
dance, sometimes in hotel lobbies. He had them try to imitate
ballet moves. He told one player, perhaps seriously, that
he might help himself if he parted his hair on the other side,
because it would give him something else to think about. Injured
or benched players in Springfield were expected to make popcorn
and sell programs. Eddie Jr. did a lot of that, too.
owned Boston and was a draw everywhere he went in the old
six-team NHL. At home one time, while the band played "Hail
To The Chief," he skated onto the ice wearing a cape.
once told the late author Dick Beddoes: "Most of us are
a little crazy in one way or another, some of us admit it.
As for me, I'm not sorry about anything I've done in my life."
the hundreds who played in Cupar, Shore is the only one to
make it to the NHL. But scores of other NHLers have come out
of small-town Saskatchewan, especially back when Canada supplied
practically every player in the league. This is my (very)
minor claim to fame: I also played a season for the Cubs,
as a 17-year-old third-line center, in the late '60s.
brother Rob has lived his whole life in Cupar and has been
involved with the team one way or the other for the past 24
years, since he first played played for it at 16. These days
he's the secretary-treasurer, meaning he's in charge of fund
raising, key to attracting and paying the "import"
players who can make or break the team. He, club president
Kevin Bonish, and manager Kelly Findling are credited with
keeping the team alive in recent years after it nearly folded.
a big commitment to keep it going," says brother Rob,
"If you were to to loose it, you probably wouldn't ever
get it back." Some players who commute from Regina get
maybe $100 a game, plus the usual gas mileage, sticks and
tape. Not much, but most of the rinks don't hold more than
1,000 people and tickets are dead cheap. A pub owner paid
for the star on one of the rival team last season, figuring
he gets the money back in post-game sales. "Thats what's
kind of killing senior hockey," Rob adds. "There's
a lot of towns can't offer the players much and if you don't
have a good team, who's going to come to watch? It's kind
of a catch-22 thing
Cupar rates the lowest in classification by population, Senior
D (749 and under), but more often than not steps up to Senior
A (over 4000) for the provincial playdowns. In 1995, the Canucks
went AAA, making them eligible fo the national championship,
the Allan Cup.
still bitterness surrounding what would wind up as a loss
to the team from Warroad, Minn., in the Saskatchewan-Manitobia
final ... there was great controversy over scheduling and
Cupar players' job commitments prevented them from competing.
Ah, what might of been.
year, the Canucks finished runners-up in the provincial A
tournament (having won it in the 90's), losing to another
town from the eight-team Highway League, Raymore, in the final.
Not bad considering there are 16 registered senior leagues
in Saskatchewan involving a total of 131 teams. Indeed, across
Canada there are 46 teams that are classed from the get-go
as AA or AAA teams (only four in Saskatchewan, compared to
15 in Ontario) but of the 7,413 nationally registered players
who fall under the classification of "senior other"
fully 3,035 of them are in that province. That would include
Shamrock, with a population of 30, and on up. The Llyodminster
Border Kings won the Allan Cup this year, becoming the first
Saskatchewan team to do so in 60 years.
a high level of competition alive isn't easy. Some years the
Cupar team has been all-local, or has included players who
grew up there and commute from school or jobs. Other eras
have been built around imports... former minor-pro, junior
or university players who go to the highest bidder.
hockey in Saskatchewan," says Bonish, the chief organizer
of the current reunion, "it sure gets the blood going.
The rivalry and the excitement are there. If you didn't have
it, there sure would be a void in your town."
during the first weekend of summer.
Cubs: In this photo of the Cupar Cubs, which dates
from before 1923, the NHL's second greatest defenceman
ever (and future
Don Cherry mentor to boot), Eddie Shore, is second from
left in the