It is with deep sadness that the Toronto Maple Leafs learned of the passing of former captain Ted Kennedy. He died from natural causes early Friday morning in a Port Colborne, Ontario nursing home. Ted Kennedy was 83 years of age.
“The entire Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club sends our deepest sympathies to the Kennedy family,” said Brian Burke, president and general manager of the team. “He truly was a man of great class and he was one of the most accomplished leaders in our team’s long history. It’s a mark of great distinction for Ted Kennedy to have earned the Hart Trophy (1955) in a time when legendary players such as Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, and Ted Lindsay were playing in the league.”
Hockey Hall of Fame member Dick Duff played in his first NHL game in 1954-55 with Toronto and Kennedy was his centreman. Duff fondly recalls the moment later in his career when he was given Kennedy’s sweater number nine by Conn Smythe. Explained Duff, “I could not have been bestowed a bigger honour by Mr. Smythe as to the time I was given Ted Kennedy’s sweater number. At that time, Ted Kennedy was regarded by fans and team ownership as one of, if not, the best player to have ever worn the crest of the Maple Leafs and I was truly humbled by the gesture. I admired him greatly and I wore his number with tremendous pride.”
Born on December 12, 1925 in Humberstone, Ontario, Ted “Teeder” Kennedy played 14 seasons in the NHL, all of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs. During the war period, Kennedy began his career in the 1942-43 season after the Maple Leafs acquired his rights from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Frankie Eddolls. Kennedy would go on to serve as the Maple Leafs’ team captain from 1948 to 1955, and again in 1956-57.
Kennedy helped lead the Maple Leafs to five Stanley Cup championship seasons in 1944-45, 1946-47, 1947-48, 1948-49 and 1950-51. Kennedy played in 696 career games for Toronto where he collected 560 points (231 goals, 329 assists) and 432 penalty minutes. All-time among Maple Leafs players, he ranks eight in assists, ninth in points, 10th in goals and 15th in games played. In the playoffs, he played 78 career games scoring 60 points (29 goals, 31 assists). Kennedy sits fourth in Maple Leafs all-time playoff goals and sixth in all-time playoff points.
Kennedy became only the second player (Babe Pratt the other in 1944) to claim the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player in 1955 and he was selected three times to the NHL’s Second All-Star Team (1950, 1951 and 1954). At the end of the 1956-57 season, Kennedy retired from playing hockey and was later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
The Maple Leafs recognized the outstanding playing careers and service of Kennedy and Syl Apps on October 3, 1993. Both had their sweater numbers honoured in a banner-raising pregame ceremony at Maple Leaf Gardens.