THE TED LINDSAY FILE:
Born: July 29, 1925
Position: Left wing
NHL games played: 1,068 (862 with Red Wings)
1954-55 stats: 49 GP; G: 19; A: 19; 85 PIM
CAREER: GP: 1068; G: 379; A: 472; PIM: 1808
In the history of sport, it is quite possible that no man was as tough and as effective, pound-for-pound, than Ted Lindsay. Certainly not in the world of professional ice hockey.
Lindsay stood just 5’8″ and weighed 160 pounds, soaking wet. He was slight in stature but huge in heart.
The native of Renfrew, Ontario played 17 rugged seasons in the NHL, the last of which came after a four-year “retirement.”
Lindsay popped in 379 goals and spent more than 30 hours in the penalty box over his illustrious career.
But perhaps the true benchmark of Lindsay’s toughness was shown with what he did off the ice.
In 1957, after attending a league pension plan meeting, Lindsay discovered that much of the plan had been kept secret from the players. That raised Lindsay’s ire, and “Terrible Ted” started talking to football and baseball players about their working conditions, and found that hockey was lagging far behind.
It all culminated in Lindsay trying to organize the first-ever players union in the NHL.
The union rabble-rousing earned Lindsay a trade from Detroit to Chicago, but it didn’t quell his passion.
The lack of support from some big name stars, like former teammate Gordie Howe, caused a rift between Lindsay and the non-supporters. Lindsay and Howe, two-thirds of the original Production Line, went several years in the 1960s without really speaking.
Lindsay played three seasons in Chicago before “retiring” in 1960.
Four years later, old teammate and current Red Wings coach/GM Sid Abel talked Lindsay into coming out of retirement for a final fling in Detroit. By this time, legendary Red Wings boss Jack Adams, who traded Lindsay to Chicago, had long been fired.
Lindsay agreed, and wearing unfamiliar no. 15 (his no. 7 sweater was being worn by star Norm Ullman), Lindsay played 69 games and contributed 14 goals and 14 assists—and 173 penalty minutes, of course. Not bad for a 39-year-old!
Lindsay is widely (and rightfully) credited as being the first player to skate the Stanley Cup around the ice, a fact that he confirmed with me in 2006.
Ted explained that he merely wanted to give the fans a look at the Cup. In those days, NHL President Clarence Campbell would make a brief and very understated Cup presentation on the ice, and the players would skate off with it into the dressing room.
Lindsay did some broadcasting after his second retirement, then became the GM of the Red Wings in 1977. His first season was a rousing success (the team showed a 37-point improvement over the previous year), but Lindsay’s gambles on aging veterans and unheralded role players wasn’t sustainable.
The beginning of the end happened in the summer of 1978, when Lindsay signed 33-year-old goalie Rogie Vachon to a rich contract. Vachon was a bust.
In 1980-81, Lindsay was stripped of GM duties but was retained as coach of the Red Wings. But a 3-14-3 start resulted in his firing from that job as well.
Lindsay’s no. 7 hangs from the rafters (it was retired in 1991) and he remains a highly visible member of the Red Wings community. He keeps himself in exquisite physical shape and is due to turn 90 this July.
NEXT WEEK: Marty Pavelich, whose brother Matt was a longtime NHL linesman.