Retired Maple Leaf player Eddie ‘The Entertainer’ Shack has died at 83, The Canadian Press reports. Shack played with 6 different teams between 1958 and 1975. He won 4 Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s, including the franchise’s last victory in 1967.
Shack was born in Sudbury, Ontario, in 1937, the son of Ukrainian immigrants.
He left his job as a butcher to try out with the Guelph Biltmores hockey club, knowing he could return to the trade if hockey did not pan out as a career.
Shack played junior hockey for the Guelph Biltmores of the OHA for five seasons starting at the age of 15. He had his best season in 1956–57, when he led the league in assists and starred in the Memorial Cup playoffs.
The New York Rangers signed Shack and assigned him to their AHL Providence Reds farm team for half a season. He made the NHL in the 1958–59 season and played two years for the Blueshirts. In 1960, he was to be traded with Bill Gadsby to the Detroit Red Wings for Red Kelly and Billy McNeill, but the transaction was cancelled when Kelly decided to retire rather than accept the trade.
In November of the 1960–61 season, Shack was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he played seven seasons on the left wing as a colourful, third-line agitator who was popular with the fans despite a lack of scoring prowess. Canadian sports writer Stephen Cole likened Shack’s playing to that of ‘a big puppy let loose in a wide field’.
During the 1965–66 season Shack broke out, scoring 26 goals on a line with Ron Ellis and Bob Pulford. His popularity was such that a novelty song called Clear the Track, Here Comes Shack, written in his honour and performed by Douglas Rankine with The Secrets, reached #1 on the Canadian pop charts and charted for nearly three months.
Shack was a member of the Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup-winning team in 1967, although his production fell significantly and he was traded in May 1967 to the Boston Bruins for Murray Oliver and cash. Playing on the right wing on a line with Derek Sanderson and Ed Westfall, Shack revived and scored 23 goals.
Afflicted by injuries, he spent the next four seasons moving among the Los Angeles Kings, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh sold him back to Toronto for the 1973–74 season. He retired after the 1974–75 season.
Very late in career, back in Toronto, Shack was involved in a game so boring, that Shack was the only bright light. In a rare moment he was named the game’s first star. Sportswriter Dick Beddoes captured the moment. Fans were up on their feet, expectant, waiting. Then Shack’s name was announced and he sprang onto the ice, arms and stick lifted over his shaggy mane, whirling in flight. Sat centre ice, capering, he wheeled on one leg, and threw himself into one of those Karen Magnussen sitspins. Pure joy swept the galleries.
After retirement, Shack was a popular advertising spokesman in Canada, most notably for The Pop Shoppe soft drink brand and a Schick razor promotion for which he shaved his mustache. He also promoted a small chain of doughnut stores. He appeared for a number of years at alumni all-star games. Shack also revealed he had been illiterate most of his life and subsequently became an advocate for literacy programs in his native Ontario.