Maple Leafs icon Eddie Shack dies at age 83

Eddie Shack, who captured hearts not just for winning Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs but with his winning personality.

Eddie Shack, who captured hearts not just for winning Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs but with his winning personality.

Eddie Shack, who won four Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored the Cup-winning goal in 1963, has died. He was 83.

The Leafs announced his death on Sunday.

The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Shack was born in Sudbury, Ont., and his playing career began in an unorthodox way.

At the age of 15 — and after struggling in school — Shack left his job as a butcher to try out for the Guelph Biltmores, an Ontario Hockey Association team, where he played for five seasons and became one of its stars before being signed by the New York Rangers.

Shack made his NHL debut in 1958-59 and played for New York for two seasons where, despite having been a prolific scorer in junior hockey, he was expected to fill the role of a checker. He scored only 16 goals in parts of three seasons with the Rangers, before being traded to the Maple Leafs in 1960, where he would go on to enjoy his most successful playing years.

For seven seasons, Shack skated on the Maple Leafs’ wings, playing the part of colourful third-line agitator and endearing himself to fans despite his name rarely coming up in the goals or assists columns of box scores.

The longer he spent wearing blue and white, the more his popularity grew. So much so that in 1966, Brian McFarlane wrote the song, “Clear the Track, Here Comes Shack” in his honour. Performed by The Secrets, the song reached the top of Canada’s pop charts for two weeks and remained on the chart for over two months.

On the ice, Shack’s play earned him the nickname “The Entertainer,” a persona he drew on in a second career as a TV pitchman. His role as an agitator meant being a willing fighter, too.

Eddie Shack salutes one of his Pop Shoppe posters. (Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images). CANADA - JUNE 12:  Clowning Eddie Shack salutes one of his posters   (Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Eddie Shack salutes one of his Pop Shoppe posters. (Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images). CANADA – JUNE 12: Clowning Eddie Shack salutes one of his posters (Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Famously, in the 1964 playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, Shack fought Henri Richard — which culminated in Shack head-butting Richard because his arms were pinned and unavailable to keep throwing punches, sending Richard out of the game for stitches. Toronto went on to win the game, and the series, en route to claiming the Stanley Cup.

Shack’s enthusiasm for the game of hockey was on display whenever his blades hit the ice. So too was his commitment to winning, and whether it was by firing his teammates up in the dressing room between periods or by being a comedian and getting those around him to loosen up, Shack was always whatever his team needed him to be.

Shack won four Stanley Cups with the Maple Leafs in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967.

Although much of his tenure was spent as a third- or fourth-line forward, Shack’s most famous goal was historic. During the 1963 playoffs, Shack scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal — which, he claimed at the time in typical colourful fashion, he unintentionally deflected into the net with his backside.

As a member of the Maple Leafs, he also played in three All-Star Games from 1962 to 1964.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Eddie (The Entertainer) Shack, decked out in a cowboy hat, heads up ice with the puck during the Heroes of Hockey oldtimers game at the NHL All-Star weekend in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2000. (Kevin Frayer / CP)

Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Eddie (The Entertainer) Shack, decked out in a cowboy hat, heads up ice with the puck during the Heroes of Hockey oldtimers game at the NHL All-Star weekend in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2000. (Kevin Frayer / CP)

In his post-Maple Leafs NHL career, Shack played for the Boston Bruins — where his Stanley Cup-winning experience earned him a more prominent role in the offence, scoring 23 goals — the Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The twilight of Shack’s career saw him reunited with Toronto, where he played his final two seasons before retiring in 1975.

During his 17-year NHL career, Shack scored 239 goals, while picking up 226 and 1,437 penalty minutes throughout 1,047 regular-season games. He added six goals, seven assists and 151 penalty minutes in 74 playoff games.

Eddie Shack (L) and Red Kelly (R) share a moment during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The ceremony was held on February 8, 2014. (Abelimages/Getty). TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 8: Eddie Shack and Red Kelly talk during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Leafs 64' Stancley Cup before action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Eddie Shack (L) and Red Kelly (R) share a moment during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The ceremony was held on February 8, 2014. (Abelimages/Getty). TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 8: Eddie Shack and Red Kelly talk during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Leafs 64′ Stancley Cup before action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 8, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

After retiring, Shack — like his former Maple Leafs teammate, Tim Horton — lent his name to donut shops, with the Eddie Shack Donuts chain opening in 1994.

His oversized personality led to him starring in television ad campaigns, too, acting as a spokesman for companies like Esso, Journey’s End Hotels and, perhaps most famously, the Pop Shoppe — for whom he appeared on billboards and in radio spots.

Throughout his post-hockey life, Shack used his fame to advocate for literacy in schools, with the hope of inspiring students to study so they wouldn’t endure the same academic struggles that he did.