On Monday, the fourth of March, 2019, the Detroit Red Wings and the world of hockey as a whole lost a true legend, Mr. Ted Lindsay. “Terrible Ted” was a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings during his career. He was the first player to skate a lap around the rink with the Stanley Cup, which has become a yearly tradition at the end of every NHL season. He collected the 1950 Art Ross trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer with 78 points in 69 games. Lindsay played 13 seasons with the Red Wings and three with the Black Hawks, retired in 1960, then made a one-year comeback with Detroit in 1964-65 so that he could retire with the Wings. Twenty-six years later in 1991, his number seven was hoisted up to the rafters in Joe Louis Arena. But Lindsay’s biggest accomplishments may have been off the ice.
Mr. Lindsay was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966, but refused to attend the ceremony because women and children were not allowed. “My feeling was, families put up with us when we were temperamental idiots,” said Lindsay. “They should be able to enjoy the benefits of what the League is giving us.” Due to his refusal to attend, the following year the rules were changed to allow families at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Lindsay was one of the toughest men to lace up a pair of skates, having more than 700 stitches sewn into this flesh as a player — and he had the scars to prove it. Yet his toughest battle was off the ice. In 1957, after attending the NHL annual pension plan meeting as a representative of the Red Wings players, he found out the details of the pension plan were kept secret from the players. Later that year, he and Doug Harvey of the Montreal Canadiens created what we now know as the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA). Team owners were completely against this idea and were using reserve clauses — where they could perpetually extend a player’s contract by one year — to basically own a player for their entire career. Once Red Wings coach and general manager Jack Adams caught wind of this idea, he stripped Mr. Lindsay of his captaincy and traded him to the Chicago Black Hawks. Ted was quoted about the trade, saying, “my penalty for rocking the boat was being traded.”
The abuse from Jack Adams didn’t stop there. Adams went on to spread rumors about Mr. Lindsay’s character and printed a fake contract with an inflated salary. But Mr. Lindsay remained strong and kept fighting for the players’ rights. Finally, in 1958, an out -of-court settlement was reached. Among the increased benefits for players included a $7,000-per season minimum salary, an increase in pension, hospitalization benefits, and a limit on the number of exhibition games. Every player should thank Mr. Lindsay for the rights they receive through the NHLPA today.
Due to his contribution to the game by creating the NHLPA, the Lester B. Pearson award was reintroduced in 2010 as the Ted Lindsay Award. This is awarded to the player who is voted most outstanding by the Players Association. Many players consider this the real MVP award over the Hart Trophy. Ted not only fought to help NHL players, but he also started the Ted Lindsay Foundation in 2001, which has raised over $1.5 million dollars to find a cure for autism.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lindsay in May of 2018. Even at 92 years old, his handshake was strong and he was just as intimidating. But once you approached him and talked to him, he was nice and so humble. He took his time to make sure his signature was perfect on the items he was signing. I gave him a puck to sign and he asked “where do you want me to sign, young man?” I replied, “that’s up to you, sir. A long as you sign it, I am happy.”
He looked back at me with a huge smile and said “Okay”. Ted Lindsay may have been known as “Terrible Ted” on the ice, but off the ice, terrible couldn’t have been further from the truth. ■
Travis Shaw is a blue collar steel plant worker from Pittsburgh who is borderline obsessed with everything hockey and is married to a woman who is waaayyyy out of his league. Follow him on Twitter @officialtshaw31