"He played me for three minutes," says Johns, "and then suspended me for a week. 'When I played hockey,' he told me, 'I once had 100 stitches in the leg and I was out only three—no, two and a half—days.' "
Johns considers himself more fortunate than most since he was sent to Baltimore after only a year in Springfield. Others, such as Billy McCreary, who played four years for Shore, curse the day they were told to report. McCreary claims Shore's love of a penny would make Jack Benny seem like the last of the great spenders. "We were on strict budgets with him," said McCreary. "He never allowed us to tip taxi drivers more than 15 cents. After a while, we got so well known around the league none of the cabbies wanted to pick us up.
"That was bad enough. But some guys had a bonus clause in their contracts. If they got, say, 20 goals, they'd get more money. So a guy would be comin' close to 20 near the end of the season. Does he make it? Hell, Shore would sit him out of the late season games so he couldn't score any more. And if you think I'm joking, just ask anyone who skated for Shore."
Still, among members of the Shore Alumni Association there are as many admirers as critics. One graduate, Goal-tender Don Simmons, remembers how Shore once ordered him into his office. Don had been in a slump and, naturally, feared the worst. But Eddie was convinced Simmons had developed a mental block against goaltending. He suggested the kid return to his home in Port Colborne, Ont. for a rest. "He told me to go home to my mother. 'Help her around the house,' he said. 'Wash the dishes and do the rest of the chores for her. That'll take your mind off hockey. While you're at it, find a studio and take some dancing lessons.' "
Simmons nearly suffered a nervous breakdown soon after he returned to play. In a tense game between Cleveland and Springfield, Referee Frank Udvari called a penalty against the Indians that so enraged Shore he ordered his entire team off the ice with the exception of Simmons. Udvari pulled out his watch, "You got 15 seconds to ice a team," the referee said, "or I drop the puck." Shore ignored the threat.
Udvari dropped the puck and five Cleveland players charged at Simmons. So amazed were the attackers at this unheard-of scoring opportunity they fought among themselves over who would take the shot. Finally, Bo Elik of Cleveland shot and missed. Three succeeding shots went wild and Simmons fell on the puck, stopping play. Finally Shore sent his team back on the ice.
Several years later Simmons' wife became involved in the strange world of Shore. The Indians were in a losing streak, and a notice was posted on the team bulletin board: PLAYERS AND WIVES REPORT TO DRESSING ROOM AT 3 P.M.
"We thought it would be a party," says Simmons, "because the Old Man threw a party every once in a while. We told our wives to get dressed up real fine. When we got to the dressing room the girls expected to see decorations. Instead, the room was filled with dirty uniforms and the aroma of liniment. That shook 'em up a bit, but nothing like what was to come.
"After we all sat down, the Old Man looked at our wives and said the team wasn't doing as well as it should. He told the girls he wanted them to pay less attention to their husbands so we could play better hockey for the rest of the season. Then he sent us home. That was the end of the party."
Aldo Guidolin, an alumnus of Shore Academy, class of 1959, shudders when he recalls his hours of grim instruction under Eddie. "He harps on three points," says Guidolin. "He wants the hands two feet apart on the stick, the feet 11 inches apart on the ice and he wants you to skate in a sort of sitting position. You better do it exactly right or you're in big trouble."