It was a charity event for the torch run that supports the Special Olympics, hosted just outside Sudbury, Ontario, that featured the NHL Alumni vs. the local police department. In a game that featured former greats such as Rick Vaive and Wilf Paiement, it was just as special to be greeted at the entrance by, the one and only, Eddie Shack.
As I walked inside, the place was absolutely packed. Kids were at the canteen trying to get their popcorn and fries, there was a silent auction set up with autographed pictures and jerseys, and the whole place had that true hockey smell; the same smell that instantly brings back so many memories of being a kid and dreaming of becoming the next â€œGreat Oneâ€ or â€œBobby Orrâ€. A simple smell brings back the young dreamer in all of us. Right in the middle of all of this wonderful activity was Eddie Shack, in his cowboy hat, welcoming everyone to the arena and demanding for your attention. And how could you not give it to him? Itâ€™s Eddie Shack! Complete with Stanley Cup Ring worn on the pinky finger of his left hand.
He was accurately nicknamed â€œThe Entertainerâ€ as he became the pre-game show for everyone, young and old, who just wanting the opportunity to say a few words to the former Leaf and shake his hand â€“ which by the way were gigantic. I remember thinking to myself â€œhe used to fight people with these mitts?â€
After buying a few pictures (all autographed personally, and most were hilarious) I returned when things settled down a bit to try and get a few words in with him. It was then he responded with â€œI was the best! Better than Gretzky and better than Hull!â€ He said it loudly, making sure everyone heard while wearing a big smile as no one contested him.
This man, 72 years old, who didnâ€™t look a day over 50, still had the classy smile and lived up to his nickname even off the ice. His cocky comments were said with a bit of a laugh while signing autographs and having a blast. Then he showed just how human he really was, in a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. A young woman in a wheelchair came over to meet the great and, after kissing her on the top of the head, had a picture taken with her. It was then, after she tried to carry on so others could get their chance that he pulled her back, took off his ring and told her she could try it on. They then talked for a little while as she stared at the ring at every possible angle, imagining what it had been like to win it and the history that came with it.
After she returned it, he hugged her once more and she was on her way. Eddie then went back to his usual self, making jokes and greeting more and more people as they showed up for the event. And every new person who walked through the door had the same reaction â€“ Oh my God, itâ€™s Eddie Shack!
Eddie was more than just The Entertainer, tonight. Eddie was more than just a player. Eddie was and is pure heart. Thatâ€™s the Eddie I was able to meet tonight; thatâ€™s the Eddie I will always remember.
Micheal A. Aldred