Scott Johnston was going to frame Eddie Shore’s jersey and put it on his basement wall before he learned how valuable it was.
Now the Boston Bruins No. 2 jersey once worn by the four-time National Hockey League most valuable player, one of the nastiest players of all time, is going up for auction with hopes it can fetch up to $100,000.
“Once I found out the value of it, I couldn’t keep it,” Johnston, a married father of three, said this week from his Toronto-area home. “We’ve had it all these years. I had no idea what it was worth.”
Heritage Auctions is taking online pre-bids for the jersey until Friday night, with live bidding set for Saturday in its Sports Platinum Night Auction in New York. As of Thursday, the online bidding was at $40,000.
The jersey belonged to Johnston’s grandfather, Byron Johnston, who played for the Boston Bruin Cubs in the defunct Can-Am Hockey League in the 1930s.
In those days, the NHL club passed its used jerseys on for the minor league team to wear. Byron Johnston got the shirt Shore had worn until 1931. The only change from when Shore wore it is that a Cubs patch was added on the sleeves.
Heritage Auctions said that Harvey McKenney, an expert in Bruins memorabilia, issued a letter of authenticity on the lot, which includes the wool jersey and a typed letter from 1934, signed by Bruins coach Art Ross, inviting Johnston to a tryout.
The Bruins did not adopt the spoked-B logo until the 1948-49 season. The Shore jersey is brown and yellow with the team name and an image of a bear on the front.
Heritage considers it “one of the most important relics in National Hockey League history.”
“Eddie Shore is considered the toughest hockey player of the pre-war game,” Chris Ivy, director of Heritage Sports Collectibles, said in a statement. “His hard-nosed, sometimes violent style made him an instant star in Boston, and served as a primary catalyst for the American popularization of what had been a thoroughly Canadian sport previously.”
Shore, from Cupar, Sask., joined the Bruins in 1926 in the midst of the league’s first expansion into the U.S. Boston joined the NHL in 1924, followed by Chicago, Detroit and the New York Rangers in 1926.
The five-foot-11, 194-pound Shore went on to become one of the league’s best and most feared defenceman.
His four Hart trophies is third most in league history behind Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. The seven-time first-team all-star won Stanley Cups in 1929 (the Bruins’ first) and 1939.
One of the league’s first rushing defencemen, Shore had 105 goals, 179 assists and 1,037 penalty minutes in 553 games from 1926 to 1940.
A famous incident came in the 1933-34 season when Shore ended the career of Toronto Maple Leafs star Ace Bailey with a check from behind. Shore was suspended for 16 games.
A benefit game held for Bailey on Feb. 14, 1934, inspired the league to start holding an annual all-star game.
He was traded to the defunct New York Americans during his last NHL campaign in 1939-40 while splitting his playing time with the minor league club he purchased, the Springfield Indians, which he owned until 1976.
Shore, whose record of five fights in one game set Nov. 23, 1929, will likely never be broken, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947, the same year the Bruins retired his number. He died in 1985 of a lung infection aged 82.