On January 2, 1929 the Boston Bruins took the night train to Montreal for a National Hockey League game with the Montreal Maroons the following evening. As the Pullman slowly rolled away from the platform, Boston Manager Art Ross walked through the sleeping car, counting his players. When Ross reached the last berth he realized that one of them—All-Star Defenseman Eddie Shore—was missing.
"Mr. Ross didn't know it," said Shore recently, "but I was running down the station platform trying to jump on the last car of the train. I didn't make it and had just missed the train because my taxi had been tied up in a traffic accident coming across town."
Shore was determined to reach Montreal in time for the game, however. The Bruins already were shorthanded because of injuries, and Shore was well aware of the $500 fine Ross levied against any player who missed a road-trip train. He first checked the train schedules and found that the next express wouldn't reach Montreal until after game time. He tried the airlines and was told all plane service had been canceled because of a sleet storm. He then decided to rent an automobile but changed his mind when a wealthy friend offered him his limousine and a chauffeur.
At 11:30 p.m. Shore and the chauffeur headed north on a 350-mile trip over icy, snow-blocked New England mountains. It was sleeting and there were no paved superhighways, no road patrols, no sanders.
February 10, 1964
The chauffeur drove through the storm at three miles an hour. "I was not happy at the rate he was traveling," says Shore, "and I told him so. He apologized and said he didn't have chains and didn't like driving in the winter. The poor fellow urged me to turn back to Boston."
At that point the car skidded to the lip of a ditch. Shore took over at the wheel and drove to an all-night service station, where he had tire chains put on. By then the sleet storm had thickened into a blizzard. Snow caked either side of the lone windshield wiper, and within minutes the wiper blade froze solid to the glass. "I couldn't see out the window," says Shore, "so I removed the top half of the windshield."
His face was exposed to the blasts of the icy wind and snow but he still managed to see the road. At about 5 a.m., in the mountains of New Hampshire, "we began losing traction. The tire chains had worn out."
Slowly, Shore eased the car around a bend in the road where he could see the lights of a construction camp flickering. He awakened a gas station attendant there, installed a new set of chains and weaved on. "We skidded off the road four times," he says, "but each time we managed to get the car back on the highway again."
The second pair of chains fell off at 3 the next afternoon. This time Shore stopped the car and ordered the chauffeur to take over the wheel. "I felt that a short nap would put me in good shape," he says. "All I asked of the driver was that he go at least 12 miles an hour and stay in the middle of the road."
But the moment Shore dozed off, the chauffeur lost control of the big car and it crashed into a deep ditch. Neither Shore nor the chauffeur nor the car suffered any damage, so Shore hiked a mile to a farmhouse for help. "I paid $8 for a team of horses," says Shore, "harnessed the horses and pulled the car out of the ditch. We weren't too far from Montreal and I thought we'd make it in time if I could keep the car on the road."
He did and at 5:30 p.m. Shore drove up to The Windsor hotel, the Bruins' headquarters. He staggered into the lobby and nearly collapsed. "He was in no condition for hockey," says Ross. "His eyes were bloodshot, his face frostbitten and windburned, his fingers bent and set like claws after gripping the steering wheel so long. And he couldn't walk straight. I figure his legs were almost paralyzed from hitting the brake and clutch."
Nevertheless Shore ate a steak dinner, his first real meal in 24 hours, and refused the coach's orders to go to sleep. "I was tired all right," Shore says, "but I thought a 20- or 30-minute nap would be enough, then I'd be set to play."
An hour later Dit Clapper and Cooney Weiland of the Bruins entered Shore's room and shook him gently. Nothing happened. They rolled him over the bed and onto the floor. Still nothing happened. Weiland filled several glasses with water and poured them over Shore's face. This time he woke up and immediately insisted on playing.
Ross didn't want him to. "I knew how durable he was," the coach says, "but there's a limit to human endurance. I finally decided to let him get on the ice, but at the first sign of weakness or sleepwalking I'd send him to the dressing room. I had to worry about him being groggy. What if he got hit hard and wound up badly hurt?"
The game was rough and fast. The powerful Maroons penetrated Boston's defense often, but Shore always helped repulse them. Once he smashed Hooley Smith to the ice with a vicious body check and drew the game's first penalty. Ross considered benching him at this point, but changed his mind. When the penalty had elapsed, Shore jumped on the ice and appeared stronger than ever. Shortly before the halfway point in the second period he skated behind his net to retrieve the puck. He faked one Montreal player, picked up speed at center ice and swerved to the left when he reached the Maroons' blue line. He sped around the last defenseman and shot. "I would say I was 15 feet out to the left," he says. "I can remember exactly how my shot went. It was low, about six inches off the ice, and went hard into the right corner of the net." The time of the goal was 8:20 of the second period. The Bruins led 1-0.
Shore still showed no signs of his ordeal during the third period (he had another two-minute penalty), and almost 24 hours after he had chased the train down the North Station platform the final buzzer sounded. Apart from the two penalties, Shore had played the entire game without relief and, what's more, had scored the only goal of the game. Coach Ross never fined him for missing the train.