Lindsay, Robert Blake Theodore ("Ted")
LINDSAY, Robert Blake Theodore ("Ted")
(b. 29 July 1925 in Renfrew, Ontario, Canada), professional hockey player who helped lead the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup championships in the 1950s and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
Unlike most of his contemporaries in the National Hockey League (NHL), Lindsay inherited his ice hockey credentials. His father, Bert Lindsay, played goalie at Montreal's McGill University from 1902 to 1905 before embarking upon an itinerant professional career. Forty years later Bert's son emerged as a star in junior hockey; Lindsay was a member of the Toronto Saint Michael's College team that lost to the Oshawa (Ontario) Generals in the 1943–1944 junior finals. Oshawa then added Lindsay to its roster in a successful bid for the Memorial Cup in 1944. That September, at the age of nineteen, Lindsay joined the Detroit Red Wings.
An assassin with the face of an altar boy, "Terrible Ted" cut a swath of mayhem and destruction through the NHL of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Diminutive even by the standards of the time, the five foot, eight inch, 163-pound Lindsay used his fists and his stick, which he called the "great equalizer," to cut opponents down to size. He paid for his contentious deportment, spending 1,808 minutes in the penalty box during a seventeen-year career and accumulating at least 400 stitches (and the nickname "Scarface"), after which he stopped counting.
During the 1946–1947 season the Red Wings coach Tommy Ivan assembled the acclaimed Production Line of Lindsay, Sid Abel, and Gordie Howe. The following year Lindsay tallied thirty-three goals and added nineteen assists, finishing ninth in the league in scoring and earning the first of nine All-Star selections at left wing. Lindsay remained a perennial All-Star for the better part of a decade, failing to make the squad only once between 1948 and 1957 when, in 1954–1955, injuries limited him to forty-nine games.
From 1949 until 1955 Lindsay and Howe paced the Red Wings to seven consecutive Prince of Wales Trophies, awarded to the team that compiled the best record during the regular season. Along with Abel, the duo also hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1950 and 1952. After the Red Wings prevailed in a grueling final series against the New York Rangers in 1950, Lindsay originated the tradition of parading the Stanley Cup around the rink and passing it from teammate to teammate. When Detroit traded Abel to the Chicago Blackhawks, Lindsay succeeded him as the captain and led the Wings to two more championships in 1954 and 1955.
Before the start of the 1955–1956 season, Jack Adams, Detroit's general manager, began to dismantle the club through a series of calamitous trades with Boston and Chicago. Detroit was still good enough to finish second to the powerful Montreal Canadiens and to open the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Prior to game three at Maple Leaf Gardens, an anonymous caller telephoned theToronto Sun to warn that he would shoot Lindsay and Howe if they dared to skate. Contemptuous of the threat, Lindsay played his usually aggressive style and scored both the tying and winning goals in a 5–4 overtime victory. Once the game ended, he circled the rink and, aiming his stick like a machine gun, peppered the spectators with imaginary bullets.
Although he enjoyed one of his finest seasons, Lindsay sensed that his relations with Adams had been damaged beyond repair and that his days as a Red Wing were numbered. In 1956–1957 Detroit again finished atop the six-team NHL, with Lindsay registering eighty-five points on thirty goals and a league-leading fifty-five assists. Always brusque, outspoken, and independent, Lindsay incurred the wrath of management by starting an automobile parts company with his teammate Marty Pavelich in 1955. Whether it was business, marriage, or family, Adams wanted nothing to distract his players from hockey. "My first ten years in the league," Lindsay said with typical candor, "I could've kicked Jack in the ass and he would've hugged and kissed me. When Marty and I went into business he became a different person."
Along with the Montreal defenseman Doug Harvey, Lindsay served as a players' representative on the five-member board of the NHL Pension Society. When Lindsay and Harvey could not obtain basic information about the pension fund, which the league president Clarence Campbell administered personally, they rightly suspected that the team owners were making robust profits and concealing them from the players. The financial agreement that the Major League Baseball Players Association had recently negotiated—which, among other benefits, granted players a share of the proceeds from a lucrative television contract—induced Lindsay to challenge the rampant exploitation that the NHL players unwittingly suffered.
Violating Campbell's edict against fraternization among players on different teams, Lindsay and Harvey began in 1957 to recruit members for an NHL Players Association (NHLPA). With Lindsay serving as the president, the NHLPA filed a $3 million lawsuit against the NHL in an attempt to secure increased pension benefits and a larger percentage of television revenues. Within a year of its formation, however, the NHLPA was dissolved. Potentially influential players, such as Lindsay's teammates Gordie Howe and Leonard "Red" Kelly, succumbed to intimidation, abandoned the union, and accepted the marginal concessions that the owners offered.
Adams blamed Lindsay and goaltender Glenn Hall for an early exit from the 1957 playoffs, and in July he traded both players to the Blackhawks for Hank Bassen, Forbes Kennedy, Bill Preston, and Johnny Wilson. Lindsay never doubted that the real motive behind the trade was to punish him for his business dealings and unionizing efforts. "The trade to Chicago—that was because of the players association," Lindsay insisted. "See, Jack was losing control of his players, and like everybody else in management then, he couldn't stand the thought of that."
Following his banishment to Chicago, Lindsay toiled for three seasons with the Blackhawks, helping to revitalize the woeful franchise before retiring in 1960. Coaxed back onto the ice by his former linemate Abel, then the coach of the Red Wings, Lindsay made an extraordinary return to the NHL in 1964 at age 39. Scoring 28 points on 14 goals and 14 assists, while amassing 173 penalty minutes, Lindsay inspired the Wings to a record of 40–23–7, their best showing in 8 seasons. For Lindsay, the comeback had a more personal significance. "It's certainly not the money," he explained. "I'm well off.… I wanted to leave the game the way I started it: as a member of the Detroit Red Wings."
Lindsay left hockey for good at the end of the 1964–1965 season, retiring to the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills with his second wife, Joanne. More than thirty years after leaving professional sports, he still rose daily at 5 a.m., exercised for an hour, and then went to the office to manage the auto-parts business he had started with Pavelich. "I'll never retire," he once said, "as long as the good Lord gives me my health." Lindsay also remained close to the Red Wings organization, serving as the general manager between 1976 and 1980 and as the coach for twenty-nine games during the 1979–1980 and 1980–1981 seasons. In attendance at all the Red Wings home games, Lindsay declared with pride, "I buy my own season tickets. That team doesn't owe me anything."
Lindsay finished his playing career with 379 goals, 472 assists, and 851 points in 1,068 regular-season games, adding 96 points on 47 goals and 49 assists in 133 play-off contests. In 1949–1950 he won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL, and was selected to the All-Star team nine times. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966, Lindsay stayed close to hockey, serving an analyst for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) hockey telecasts during the 1972–1973 season. In a ceremony on 10 November 1991, the Red Wings organization retired Lindsay's number 7 to the rafters of the Joe Louis Arena. As the acknowledged leader of the magnificent Red Wings clubs of the 1950s, Lindsay was characteristically humble about his contributions and accomplishments. "Anything to help us win," he explained. "There was never anyone who liked to win more than I did."
Useful books on Lindsay and the Red Wings include Stan Fischler, Motor City Muscle: Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, and the Championship Detroit Red Wings (1996); Richard Bak, Detroit Red Wings: The Illustrated History (1997); Paul R. Greenland, Wings of Fire: The History of the Detroit Red Wings (1997); and Brian McFarlane, Detroit Red Wings (1998). Helpful articles include Roy MacSkimming, "Gordie Takes a Pass," Saturday Night (Nov. 1994); Kelley King, "Ted Lindsay, Hero of Hockey: March 18, 1957," Sports Illustrated (28 Feb. 2000); Ted Lindsay, "Facing the Rocket," Hockey News (30 June 2000); and Ted Lindsay and Chuck O'Donnell, "The Game I'll Never Forget," Hockey Digest (Dec. 2000). See also the official website of the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association at http://www.redwingalumni.com.
Mark G. Malvasi