A decade ago, the former Lester B. Pearson Award was renamed for the Detroit Red Wings legendary star Ted Lindsay. The trophy is awarded to the league's most outstanding player as voted on by his fellow NHL Players Association. Boston all-time great Phil Esposito won the first Pearson in 1970.
Last March, Lindsay passed away at 93, prompting hundreds of media tributes from coast to coast across North American. Those obituaries, columns, blogs and TV/video commentaries focused on Lindsay's illustrious on-ice accomplishments-four Stanley Cups with Detroit in the 1950s, his physical ferocity despite his smaller stature, playing on the famed "Production Line" with two other Hall of Famers, Gordie Howe and Sid Abel-but equally called out Lindsay's originating role in the very NHL players union that now elects the annual trophy winner.
Lindsay joined the Red Wings at 19 years old in 1944, playing 13 seasons (including 12 straight postseasons starting in 1945) in Detroit until 1957. That year Lindsay led a group of players (including Montreal Canadiens star Doug Harvey) intent on establishing a players' union. Lindsay was unafraid at the rink or negotiating table. He even discussed the group's plans to unionize with Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters powerful union boss. Hoffa told him professional athletes did not need a union.
Jack Adams, the Red Wings' longtime general manager and namesake of the NHL's coach-of-the-year trophy, was, more impressed but not in a positive fashion. He traded Lindsay to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Following the Lindsay trade, the newly formed NHL Players Association (NHLPA) filed a $3 million antitrust suit in the federal courts, identifying the league as a monopoly and specifically protesting the league's refusal to release pension plan financial statements. In February 1958, the players dropped the suit and its proposed union when NHL owners agreed out of court to establishing a $7,000 minimum player salary and a 60-percent increase in pension benefits.
The current NHLPA didn't materialize until 1967, when then-player Bob Pulford as president and executive director Alan Eagleson forged the union no doubt influenced by Lindsay's previous efforts. The trophy was reintroduced in 2010 to honor Lindsay's "skill, tenacity, leadership and role in establishing the original players association."
The Detroit legend did see nine NHL players win and accept the Lindsay award in his honor, from a then-young Washington star Alex Ovechkin in 2010 to now-young Edmonton star Connor McDavid in 2018. McDavid won the Lindsay two years a row (2017-2018), repeating the same-decade feat of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (2013-2014). For his part, also won the last two Pearsons in 2008 and 2009. Pearson was Canada's prime minister during most of the 1960s and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957.
The Lindsay Trophy is a companion trophy of sorts with the league's Hart Trophy, awarded to the regular season most valuable player as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. It's common for the same player to win both awards. Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov pulled off the feat last June, same for McDavid in 2017, Chicago's Patrick Kane in 2016 and Carey Price in 2015 (an additional rare accomplishment as a goaltender).
There can be differences between the players vote and media election. McDavid won the Lindsay in 2018 while the media named Taylor Hall (New Jersey then, just traded to Arizona in December) for the Hart. In 2013, Crosby won the Lindsay and Ovechkin was the Hart recipient. Vancouver's Daniel Sedin was the Lindsay winner in 2011, while Anaheim's Corey Perry took home the Hart that season.
Many of these same names will be candidates for the Lindsay and/or Hart this season, but expect Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, Colorado's Nathan McKinnon, the Boston duo of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand and maybe Washington's John Carlson to be in the mix.