Recently the Detroit Red Wings played the Calgary Flames at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and spotted sitting in the audience was a neatly dressed elderly man with a rough appearance and a crooked smile on his face. That man was NHL Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay now 84 years old .
Detroit is no longer a Stanley Cup contender and the city has had more than its share of economic problems, but unlike some Lindsay is still a strong supporter of the team and the city. Ted Lindsay has always been first and foremost a loyal Detroit Red Wing.
There is also no doubt that Theodore (Ted) Lindsay had a lasting impact while playing for the Wings. Although Lindsay played with Gordie Howe and Sid Abel on the legendary Production Line , he was never overshadowed.
Lindsay’s famed linemate Gordie Howe was one of the most talented and productive players ever to skate in the NHL. Despite Howe’s immense popularity Terrible Ted literally carved out a name for himself as the fierce and passionate captain and leader of the champion Detroit Red Wings.
In Ted’s era a hockey game was serious business and losing a game could not be easily reconciled by excuses such as an off night or the long season or even a nagging injury. Today it is not uncommon for opposing players to pal around together in the off season. Lindsay hated the players on other teams with a passion and for the most part they also hated him with good reason. “Lindsay would not give an inch, regardless of what size anyone was,” teammate Marcel Pronovost said.
At 5’8" and 160 pounds Lindsay was pound for pound one of the fiercest competitors ever to play the game. The NHL rules committee was forced to deal with infractions like elbowing and kneeing as result of Lindsay’s spirited play. Lindsay also had his share of brutal stick fights.
From 1947 till he ended his career in 1965 Ted averaged over 100 penalty minutes and finished his career with 1808 minutes in the box.
What made Lindsay special was not just his pugilistic ability. Lindsay could skate, make plays and score goals just as well as he could dish out a body check. He won the Art Ross trophy as the league’s top scorer and finished his career with 379 goals and 472 assists for 851 points. Eight times, he was picked to the NHL’s First All-Star Team. He captained Detroit to consecutive Stanley Cups in 1953-54 and 1954-55 and began a playoff tradition following that 1955 triumph, lifting the Cup over his head and leading a victory lap around the ice. “Everyone’s emotions were on high and I guess mine were a little higher,” Lindsay said. “It was an impulsive sort of thing.” Lindsay’s impulse started a tradition still celebrated today.
Maurice”The Rocket” Richard one of Ted’s most hated foes during their playing days gave Lindsay the ultimate compliment. “It was Ted Lindsay not Gordie Howe that caused us the most problem.”
Ted Lindsay arrived to the NHL wars in 1944 with a single-minded goal. “I had the idea that I should beat up every player I tangled with, and nothing ever convinced me it wasn't a good idea,” said Terrible Ted.
Today it would be difficult to explain the tensions between English Canadiens and French Canadiens but those tensions sold tickets. In the 1950’s Detroit and Montreal had a warlike rivalry that many times could have easily escalated into off the ice violence. The rivalry resulted in epic matchups and an electric atmosphere pitting the Wings Howe, Lindsay, Abel, Sawchuck and Kelly against Richard, Beliveau, Geoffrion, Harvey and Plante.
“I hated everyone on the Montreal Canadians” said Lindsay.
After leading his team to league dominance Lindsay was taken off guard by what he discovered as a player representative. He found that on many occasions the team owners would renege on their promises and leave retired players who gave their all to the franchise to fend for themselves. Players were not even allowed knowledge of how much money was in their own pension fund.
Lindsay and Montreal rival Doug Harvey joined forces to secretly form a players’ union to address issues benefiting the leagues players. When team owners found out about Lindsay and Harvey’s roles both players were traded. Lindsay was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks and Harvey to the New York Rangers, “I liked playing in Chicago, and I gave them everything I had, but I knew in my heart I was a Red Wing. My penalty for rocking the boat was being traded” said Lindsay.
Despite pressures by the owners Lindsay and Harvey were successful in forming the first NHLPA.” We filed a $3-million lawsuit against the league and its member clubs in an attempt to win increased pension benefits and a larger share of television revenues.
In the 1970’s when Detroit had gone from Stanley Cup playoff participants to cellar dwellers Lindsay was again called upon b y the Red Wings organization. Lindsay was appointed the General Manager of the Red Wings and successfully retooled the team. His motto was” Aggressive Hockey is Back in Town . Lindsay was awarded NHL Executive of the Year for his efforts in bringing the team out of obscurity.
He retired again and formed The Ted Lindsay Foundation . He established the foundation in 2001 with John Czarnecki, the father of a nine-year-old boy with autism. Funds are raised through golf outings and other events, as well as through sales of autographed sports memorabilia. Since its inception in 2001, the Ted Lindsay Foundation has raised over $1,500,000 for research into the cause and cure of autism.
Throughout his career Ted Lindsay has played hockey with his heart and has proven to be a Hall of Famer both on and off the ice. As a testament to Lindsay's popularity there has been talk of renaming the Lester Pearson Trophy awarded to the NHL's Most Valuable Player as voted on by NHL players to the Ted Lindsay Trophy. If Lindsay's peers had to vote on it there would be no doubt about the outcome.