Clear the track, here comes Shack

When it comes to his many hockey travels, Eddie Shack can’t help but unintentionally borrow a line from Stompin’ Tom Connors.
“I’ve been everywhere,” Shack said from his Toronto home last week during some rare down time.
Shack will be a special referee here Friday night for the “Battle of the Badges” charity hockey game between two local law enforcement teams. They’ll be joined by NHL Hall-of-Famer Marcel Dionne, who will suit up as a celebrity player.
The action starts at 7 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena. Tickets are available at Skates and Blades for $15 each or $45 for a family pack of four (tickets also will be on sale at the door prior to the game).
Both Shack and Dionne will kick off their last leg of the “Battle of the Badges” tour tonight in Sault Ste. Marie before coming here. From there, they’ll go on to Winkler, Selkirk, Portage La Prairie, Steinbach, Melville, Humbolt, Moose Jaw, and Car-men.
And that’s just over the last week-and-a-half of March.
Everywhere, man.
“[The ‘Badges’ tour] has really picked up. We’re doing almost 100 games a year,” noted Shack, dubbed “The Entertainer,” who has been part of all four years that “Battle of the Badges” has been in existence.
But his travels across the continent also include countless old-timers’ games as both a player and referee since his retirement from the NHL in 1975.
“There’s been so many towns and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them,” he admitted. “But you know, I love the crowds.
“I love the mix-and-mingling with people,” he added.
The 65-year-old Sudbury native played in 17 NHL seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
While never the leading scorer on any of those teams, Shack is one of the game’s true characters and popular figures. Of course, it helped playing on four Stanley Cup winners with the Leafs, including their last in 1967.
In addition to the road tours, Shack also keeps busy as spokesperson for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and director of the NHL Old-timers’ Association—a non-profit organization created by former players in assisting retired players and their families in need.
Friday will mark Shack’s first return to Fort Frances in almost 14 years. He was in town back in 1988 for an old-timers’ game.
“There’s a lot of fellow Ukrainians in Fort Frances so I’m sure to have some cabbage rolls while I’m there,” enthused Shack, whose first cousin, Bill Spuzak, is a longtime resident of town (he went on to say a few words in his native tongue, which this reporter failed to catch).
During the game, which will see proceeds go towards the local chapter of Northwestern Ontario Crime Stoppers, Shack prides himself on being a referee who will lay down the law from the get-go with the local squads—at least for one night only.
“I lay down the law. When they got the guns, they’re in charge. But on the ice, I tell them when to talk. They say, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Shack,’” he said. “The thing is they love to play hockey. They get cranked up for these games.”
But what about Dionne—will he be rocking the boat come Friday?
“No way,” said Shack. “He’s a [former] Lady Byng winner. He’s harmless.”
Whether sparks fly or not, Shack anticipated a solid show Friday.
“It’ll be fun. It’s always a good turnout,” he said. “We’re here for the crowd. We’re here for the charities.”