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'Terrible Ted' Lindsay knew Lester Patrick

by John McGourty

"I have the personal joy of winning an award named after a man who played with my father." -- Ted Lindsay

Ted Lindsay is the only member of the 2008 Lester Patrick Trophy class not from Minnesota, but his contributions to American hockey are a good fit with the contributions of Brian Burke, Bob Naegele Jr. and Phil Housley.

Lindsay's contributions are in three important areas. He was a member of the four-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings when the NHL solidified its position as one of the four major sports leagues in North America. His celebrated comeback in 1964 was a major sports story, focusing more attention on the League in another decade. 

Ted Lindsay's favorite moments

Lindsay also was a pioneer in the formation of the players' association. His determination has led to a better retirement for former NHL players.

He also started one of the first major American hockey schools, along with Red Wings teammate Marty Pavelich, and began a pipeline of talented players who have had an impact on college and professional hockey.

Lindsay is pleased that all of those efforts are being recognized by this award, but he has an even more personal reason to appreciate it.

"I'm very honored for a number of reasons," Lindsay said. "The most important reason is that Mr. Patrick was still with the Rangers when I turned pro in 1944. Going back in history, my father, Bert, played with Lester Patrick in the early 1900s. I have the personal joy of winning an award named after a man who played with my father. And, I'm being honored for doing what Mr. Patrick did, contributing to the growth of hockey.

"I had the honor of knowing Mr. Patrick personally. Bert was with Lester in Victoria and before that with the Renfrew Millionaires. M.J. O'Brien, who had silver mines in Cobalt, Ontario, was trying to buy the Stanley Cup and bring it to Renfrew. Unfortunately, they didn't, but that's where my dad met my mom, Maude, a Renfrew girl. They raised nine kids, six boys and three girls."

Ted Lindsay didn't mention it, but Bert Lindsay also played with Art Ross, the longtime Boston Bruins' general manager and coach. Ted Lindsay led the NHL in scoring in 1950, winning the Art Ross Trophy. Bert Lindsay also played with Jack Adams, but Ted Lindsay didn't win that award when he coached the Red Wings in 1980-81.

Lindsay was the rugged left wing on two different versions of "The Production Line," one of hockey's all-time best units. The Production Line II, comprised of Alex Delvecchio centering Lindsay and right wing Gordie Howe, was one of hockey's greatest and it followed the original Production Line of Lindsay, Howe and Sid Abel. The Red Wings won the NHL's regular-season title seven-straight seasons from 1949-55 and four Stanley Cups in that time, in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955.

The Red Wings won the first two Stanley Cups with Abel at center and the last two with Delvecchio in the pivot.

"We had great teams and we had great chemistry," Lindsay said. "Everybody was for everybody. If a goal was scored against us, it wasn't the right winger's fault, it wasn't the defense's fault, it wasn't the goalie's fault. It was our fault, all six guys on the ice.

"On the Production Line, we were all gifted with talent. In my time, I was the best left winger in the world. We knew, instinctively, where each of us was on the ice. Sid Abel was like a father to Gordie and me. He was just back from World War II and was a great asset to us because we were inexperienced and we were a great asset to him because we had young legs. I had great respect for him.

"Alex was a tremendous player. In his first two seasons, when he was on the other line, Gordie and I would sit on the bench and just marvel at what he did with the puck. He reminds me of Pavel Datsyuk, that caliber of player. Alex was very easygoing and it looked like he wasn't moving fast because he was an effortless skater. But nobody ever chased him and caught him. He was a gifted passer who could put the puck on your stick like it was a feather."

Lindsay was a highly skilled player who competed with a ferocity rarely seen in any sport, hence the nickname "Terrible Ted." In a high percentage of vintage Lindsay photos, he's bleeding. If there's an opponent in the photo, most likely, he's bleeding too. He was good because there was an inner fire that demanded it.



"I have a renewed appreciation for Ted Lindsay..."

He was smaller than a lot of NHL players, but he used everything at his disposal. Legend has it that the NHL created the elbowing and kneeing penalties to counteract some of Lindsay's actions.

Lindsay grew up in the gold-mining town of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, and played juniors with the St. Michael's Majors. At season's end, he and fellow Kirkland Laker Gus Mortson joined the Oshawa Generals and helped them to the 1944 Memorial Cup. Lindsay joined the Red Wings the next season.

Lindsay played 17 seasons in the NHL, the first 13 seasons and his last one with Detroit. In 1,068 NHL games, Lindsay scored 379 goals and added 472 assists. He also had 1,808 penalty minutes. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lindsay had 47 goals and 49 assists in 133 games.

Lindsay led the NHL in scoring during the 1949-50 season, winning the Art Ross Trophy with 23 goals and a League-leading 55 assists in 69 games. Lindsay also led the NHL with 55 assists in 1956-57, his last season in Detroit. Lindsay led all Stanley Cup performers in 1952 with 5 goals and 7 points. He led the playoffs with 6 assists in 1949.
"On the Production Line, we were all gifted with talent. In my time, I was the best left winger in the world. We knew, instinctively, where each of us was on the ice." -- Ted Lindsay
Lindsay can back up his claim that he was the best left winger in the world during his career. He was named to the NHL First All-Star Team 8 times, including five years in a row from 1950-54. He was also named to the team in 1948 and 1956-57. He was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1949. Lindsay played in the NHL All-Star Game 11 times in his first 13 seasons.

Lindsay was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1957. He played three seasons there and retired. Four years later, Abel, then Red Wings general manager, talked him into returning for another season. He had 28 points that season at age 40, two more than he had in his final season with Chicago.

Lindsay remained in the United States after his career because he had started a business during his playing days, knowing that retired NHL players in those days had no pension plan. The hockey school was started as a money-maker, but Lindsay's sense of responsibility and Marty Pavelich's teaching skills meshed to make it a finishing school for Michigan's best players.
"Marty Pavelich started the hockey school in an old theater building on Detroit's east side," Lindsay said. "Charlie Beltz, a refrigeration guy wanted to develop an economical compressor that small towns could afford to make artificial ice. There aren't many of those old theaters around anymore, but it was built narrow in front and bellowed out like a balloon along the sides. He put in the boards the same way so if you started up ice next to the boards, suddenly there was a foot extra on the side, then 2 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet of space.

"Marty ran the school the first year and asked me to join the next year. It was funny, I knew how to play, but not how to teach. Marty knew how to teach and I learned from him and became a better hockey person. Then we moved to Flint and went into the new GFA rink. We had Terry Sawchuk as our goaltending coach. Then we went to Port Huron for the next 19 years for the last two weeks in August.

"Some of the kids turned into good players, like Doug and Tom Ross. Doug had a good college career, played for the U.S. National Team and then coached Alabama-Huntsville for many years. Tom Ross still holds some of the Michigan State records and plays now with the Red Wings alumni in charity games.

Lindsay was honored last Saturday when the Red Wings unveiled a statue that stands in the concourse in Joe Louis Arena, next to the statues of Delvecchio and Howe.

"What a wonderful week," Lindsay said. "When you play a game that you love, look what you get."

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