May 01, 2015

Frank Shepard

Frank and Johnny Shepard (also known as Sheppard) made history when they both suited up for the Detroit Cougars in 1927-28 season. They became the first of 15 sets of brothers to play for the Red Wings (originally known as Cougars then Falcons).

The boys were born in Montreal but moved to Selkirk, Manitoba in when Frank was just 5 after their parents had died in a house fire. They found solace on the ice, each starring for the Selkirk Fishermen.

Johnny enjoyed a lengthy NHL career, playing over 300 games in the late 1920s and early 1930s, mostly with the New York Americans. Four times he scored 10 or more goals in seven seasons in the era of 44 game schedule.

But the 8 games that younger Frank played with Detroit that season constituted his NHL career. He scored a goal and an assist, and then disappeared to the minor leagues. Described as a tricky stickhandler and a dandy skater, he played in cities like St. Paul and Tulsa before returning to western Canada to play in Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Frank hung up the blades in 1937 and became a successful real estate agent despite having just a grade 3 education. But his life fell apart when his wife passed away in 1953. His alcoholism became out of control. He lost his job and home. At one point he was arrested for begging on the streets of Vancouver. His children were left to bounce from boarding home to boarding home.

Frank's son Jim, born in 1939, survived the tumultuous childhood to become a notable figure himself. A former CEO of Finning and Canfor, two of the largest companies in Canada, he became a key economic adviser for the Liberal governments in British Columbia.

Frank's other son was a dancer on tv shows with Dean Martin and Red Skelton.

Frank Shepard lived until the age of 90, dying in 1996.

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