Thursday, June 14, 2012

Toronto Entertainment Mashup: Eddie Shack/Bruce Bell

Clear the Track/A Story to Tell/Here Comes Shack/Ring the Bell

Eddie Shack, whose antics prompted Douglas Rankine and the Secrets to sing about the beloved Toronto Maple Leaf, and Bruce Bell, Toronto’s accredited his-storyteller: Their paths originate in Sudbury, ON and their passions converge.

Shack, born in 1937—eighteen years before Bell—left his hometown for Guelph, where he played for the Biltimores in the Ontario Hockey League. In 1957, he graduated from the OHL to the American Hockey League to perform for the Providence Reds. A year later, he ascended to the Show, as he joined the New York Rangers. Shack then took his hockey shtick and continued his tour with other NHL and minor-league teams including the Maple Leafs, Rochester Americans, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins. In 1973, he returned to Toronto. 

The same year that Shack rejoined the Leafs, Bruce Bell left Sudbury straight for the 416. A comedian, actor, and playwright, Bell toiled in the proverbial minor leagues of show business, in Toronto’s entertainment district. Never amassing a fortune yet enjoying the gigs, Bell realized that his reputation as a top-tier Toronto performer was taking root. 

Eddie “the Entertainer” played two seasons in the Leafs organization to end his hockey career. Although retired from the NHL, Shack turned to acting. He starred in TV commercials for the Pop Shoppe beverage brand and performed in a Schick razor promotion; the first star of that stunt was Shack’s massive moustache—shaved clean from his face. He let it grow back, of course, and continued his career in hockey show business. The four-time NHL All-star was often a fan favourite at NHL Alumni games. 

Meanwhile, Bell’s interest in continuing his diversified entertainment career waned. Oh, he still loved to perform, to tell stories. He merged his zest for entertaining with his love for Toronto—its history and architecture, its character and characters—and, in 2000, he incorporated Bruce Bell Tours. In 2004, he was appointed the honourary historian of the Hockey Hall of Fame Heritage Building.

Shack, who won four Stanley Cups with the Leafs, is not a member of the HHOF, but he still calls Toronto home. He still wears his Maple Leaf jacket as he walks through the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood where Bruce Bell conducts his one-of-a-kind tours.

update: June 18, 2012
Bruce Bell is the honourary historian of the Hockey Hall of Fame Heritage Building, not the Hockey Hall of Fame, as orginally posted. I apologize for the error.
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