TORONTO - The NHL Players' Association honoured one of the driving forces behind its creation Thursday by renaming its MVP award in honour of former Detroit Red Wings great Ted Lindsay.
The Hall of Famer and four-time Stanley Cup winner was the first president of the original Players' Association, created over 50 years ago to protect the interests of players.
The Ted Lindsay Award trophy was unveiled during a ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Lindsay said the union first discussed the possibility of the honour a few years ago.
"It's like offering a kid some ice cream or something," Lindsay said. "You'd be crazy to say anything other than (yes). I was flabbergasted and I'm very pleased that it worked out this way."
The award, first handed out during the 1970-71 season, used to be named in honour of Lester B. Pearson, the former prime minister. Until now, it was one of the few major NHL awards that didn't carry the name of someone attached to the league.
Members of the players' union vote for their MVP at the end of each regular season. They occasionally select a different player than the one who wins the Hart Trophy, which is selected by hockey writers. The last time that happened was 2005-06, when Jaromir Jagr won the Pearson and Joe Thornton received the Hart.
Lindsay said he's proud his name will be used for an award that is voted on by the players.
"There are no politics involved," he said. "It tells you the whole story. Whoever wins it is entitled to it."
Over his 17-year NHL career, the all-star forward was known for his skill, leadership and a fiery streak. His nickname "Terrible Ted" even has its own nameplate on the trophy.
"I was gifted with a competitive spirit, I hated to lose," Lindsay said. "If it meant running over you, through you, spearing you, whatever it took, I was there for one reason and that was to win. If that made me terrible, I guess I deserved that title."
Off the ice, Lindsay wanted to make changes to ensure other players enjoyed rights and benefits. He was assisted by fellow players Bill Gadsby, Doug Harvey, Fern Flaman, Gus Mortson, Jim Thomson and others to organize the original association in 1957.
"I was doing it because I believed in it," Lindsay said. "I was doing it not to irritate owners, I was doing it to help out (other players). All of us needed help, we needed a voice as a group, not as an individual."
As a result, Lindsay was stripped of his Red Wings captaincy and traded to Chicago even though he was coming off his best statistical season.
"I recognized that could happen, I never thought it might but I recognized it could," Lindsay said. "I had three years in Chicago and was treated very well by the fans in Chicago but I was still a Red Wing.
"I had it tattooed on my forehead, over my heart and on my backside. So I quit after three years and came back home."
He said even though that first version of the association was stifled by management, he's pleased the groundwork was laid for the NHLPA.
"At least it got started and it's paying dividends now," he said.
The NHLPA was formally ratified as a labour organization in 1967. Lindsay, who played 14 years with Detroit, recorded 851 points (379-472) in 1,068 career games. He also had 1,808 penalty minutes.
"All NHLPA members, current and former, owe a great deal of gratitude to Ted for his efforts, so it is only fitting that we name our most outstanding player award after him," Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla said in a statement.
Iginla won the Pearson Award in 2002.
The nominees for this year's Ted Lindsay Award are expected to be released next week. The winner will be announced during the NHL's awards show in Las Vegas on June 23.
The NHLPA said the Pearson name will continue to play an important role.
The official text of the Lester B. Pearson Award is plated on the new trophy and the names of the award recipients are engraved onto its wooden panels. In addition, an annual NHLPA Goals & Dreams equipment donation will be made in Pearson's name to a Canadian youth hockey organization, which will be selected together with a member of the Pearson family.