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.