Who did Foster Hewitt think was 'the greatest of them all'?

If you wanted to decide who "the greatest of them all" was in the game of hockey, Foster Hewitt would be a good person to ask for input on the question.

Having to choose a player on the spot, the broadcast legend pointed to Eddie Shore

Who was the greatest hockey player?

41 years ago
Pierre Berton asks Foster Hewitt who is "the greatest of them all" in hockey. 1:32
Foster Hewitt was probably the best person you could put the question to.

And that's probably why Pierre Berton wanted to ask the broadcast legend who he believed was "the greatest of them all" in the game of hockey, when Hewitt appeared on CBC-TV's Front Page Challenge in December of 1980.

Hewitt, who had spent his life covering the game, paused for a moment before giving an answer that seemed to catch Berton by surprise.

"Of course, it depends entirely ... on the basis of where they play and what position they play," said Hewitt, who was then 78 years old. "I'd have to lean almost to Eddie Shore."

"Really?" said Berton.

'He was rough, tough and nasty'

Portrait of Canadian-born ice hockey player Eddie Shore as he poses in a Boston Bruins team uniform on Jan. 28, 1934. (FPG/Getty Images)

For Hewitt, his pick was based on the combination of talents Shore, a defenceman who was part of two Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins teams, brought to the ice during the 1920s and '30s.

"I think he was perhaps one of the most colourful hockey players I ever saw and he was rough, tough and nasty," he said.

"A lot of people hated him," though in Hewitt's view, Shore "had about everything a hockey player should have."

Hewitt qualified his answer a bit, telling Berton this was his answer under pressure on Front Page Challenge.

"Perhaps, if I thought about it a little longer, I might come up with somebody else, but on the spur of the moment, I would say Shore."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?