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NHL Awards

Ted Lindsay relishes presenting award named for him

Hall of Famer helps give honor to Connor McDavid of Oilers as NHL's most outstanding player, according to peers

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- Ted Lindsay was sitting at the desk in his hotel room high above the city mid-morning Wednesday, comfortable in a white robe, gazing out at the flat expanse sprawled out below him.

"Who ever dreamed of coming across the desert to start a place here?" he said with a smile, waving at the baked landscape.

During his brief Las Vegas stay, Lindsay had strayed little from his room into the network of casinos, restaurants and high-end stores downstairs.

"This is a great place to stay, nobody bothers you," he said. "And I'm not a gambler to begin with. I've worked too hard for my money, I can't afford to waste it."

A room-service waiter arrives with Lindsay's breakfast of granola and tea. He leaves with no idea of the value of the signature that's been signed on the check.

 

[RELATED: Ted Lindsay Award finalists unveiled | Ted Linsday: 100 Greatest NHL players]

 

In a few hours, the Detroit Red Wings legend will be sharply dressed and heading out to the 2017 NHL Awards presented by T-Mobile. For the eighth consecutive year, he was set to present the Ted Lindsay Award to the NHL's most outstanding player as voted by the players.

"I'm honored to have my name on a trophy to the game I loved and still love, and will do anything for, if I can, in the twilight years of my life," he said, looking like he could still play a month before his 92nd birthday.

The Hockey Hall of Famer had no idea who would win the award Wednesday (it was Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid), just as he hadn't known since 2010, when the Lester B. Pearson Award was renamed in his honor.

"They don't tell me ahead of time and I don't want to know," Lindsay said, a grin working the corners of his mouth. "When I open the envelope, I'm as surprised as whoever wins it. I don't need to know," he said, laughing now, "because I might divulge it accidentally."

Lindsay is a universally beloved figure who left a career of mayhem on the ice to a life's work of giant-hearted benevolence, his foundation having raised millions of dollars for autism research and care, making a huge difference for those dealing with the disease.

On Jan. 1, Lindsay was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian, something that profoundly moved him then, and does now.

Video: 'Terrible Ted' Lindsay took on all comers for Detroit

"There have been so many great hockey players, a lot of them deceased, a lot of older gentlemen who didn't make the top 100," he said. "I always believed they were very instrumental in selling the game."

Lindsay was unable to attend the announcement and ceremony in Toronto, because his wife, best friend and soulmate, Joanne, had cancer. She died in February. Lindsay's emotions remain raw and fresh speaking about his wife of 28 years.

"It's very difficult when I get together with people who were our friends," he said, crying and unable to continue for a moment. "When I think of Jo, well, I try to keep away from it, but I'm getting better. She'll never leave me. She was a gem, a real gem. She was good and she still is good. She's still with me."

Lindsay remains a cornerstone of the NHL's Original Six era of intense rivalries, true animosities and scores settled not only on the scoreboard.

He won four Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings during a 17-season, 1,068-game career -- 14 with Detroit, three with the Chicago Black Hawks -- and won the 1949-50 Art Ross Trophy as the League's top scorer (78 points). If there were a ceremony for the presentation of that trophy, he doesn't recall it.

Lindsay's 1,808 penalty minutes gifted him one of the greatest faces in hockey history. Deep valleys were carved into his mug by battles he never backed down from, no matter that, at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, he forever was the smaller dog in the fight.

On Wednesday, he spoke with great pride about his father, Bert, a goaltender in the pre-NHL National Hockey Association, who enjoyed success in Renfrew, Ontario, but lost everything in the Great Depression and moved his family of nine children north to Kirkland Lake and the impressive gold mines there.

It was in northern Ontario that his son, Ted, fell in love with hockey and the Red Wings, the strong radio signal of WJR carrying up from Detroit on cold winter nights.

"They had two defensemen, Jack Stewart and Jimmy Orlando, who were tough and dirty, and that was my type of hockey," Lindsay said wistfully. "I would wind up with Detroit to have a wonderful career and a wonderful life."

He knows that sometime next season, his name will leave the Stanley Cup. The sterling bands bearing the champions from 1953-54 to 1964-65 will be retired to the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the names of Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Glenn Hall, Bobby Hull and more than 300 others also being removed.

"That's part of history," Lindsay said. "I'm fine with it. I know I won the Stanley Cup, I don't need to see my name on it."

He doesn't attend many Red Wings games these days, his home a 90-minute drive from downtown Detroit. Lindsay still slides behind the wheel himself, taking great joy when he gets in front of a truck, saying, "As long as I get in front of a pickup, he's not going to challenge me."

Working out, deeply involved with his foundation and making appearances left and right, Lindsay shows no signs of slowing down. That includes his annual presentation of the Ted Lindsay Award, which he made Wednesday alongside fellow Hall of Famers Mark Messier and Mario Lemieux.

"As long as I can keep in good health, I'll do whatever I can and stay involved however I can," Lindsay said. "Hockey is the greatest game in the world, bar none. You don't hide when you get on the ice. You can't hide. You either show that you've got something, or you don't have anything."

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