RIP Terrible Ted Lindsay
The hockey community lost a true pioneer Monday morning -- Terrible Ted Lindsay past away peacefully at 93. He was a man of the people, and when he wasn't fighting your favourite goon, he was fighting for injustice.
Apart from being one of the greatest left-wingers in hockey history and an integral part on the "Production Line" with Gordie Howe and Sid Abel, Teddy was a trail-blazer. When the Renfrew, Ontario native entered the show in 1944, he flipped the league upside down, re-writing several league rules for not only the player's safety; but for their futures.
At 5,8 and 160 soaking wet, he had to use every inch to get the better of his opponents -- even if it meant using his knees, elbows or twig. The NHL later had to alter it's rules to prevent knees and flying elbows; and Lindsay would coin the term, "that's laying the lumber on em," when praising stick infractions as a colour commentator during retirement.
But those rule changes were only a fraction of his legacy, what followed would change the way hockey was played forever. Teddy's first bold move came during one of his four Stanley Cups with Detroit. In a very traditional league, it was uncommon to see a player celebrate however he pleases with the Cup. Lindsay was the first to grab the Cup, hoist it above his head and go take it for a lap to interact with the fans. Dropping the jaws of his peers, this would now become the new tradition of the Stanley Cup -- but change was just beginning.
Now being one of the more decorated athletes in Mo Town, Terrible Ted was at an event in Detroit with other Motor City athletes in the MLB and NFL. It didn't take long for Teddy to realize that every other athlete and even some commoners were making more than NHLers. He said everyone he knew on the Wings was just thrilled to be able to play hockey for a living, something they dreamed of since a child, no one thought about the figures or their futures. Even one of his best friends who didn't make the Red Wings with him was making more as an appliance repairmen.
Professional athletes playing purely for passion and a living wage is incredible -- but not right. That stupid kind of passion is for the thousand of beer leaguers like myself who pay to play the game and beneath elite players like Ted.
Now what do hard-nosed, blue-collard, lunch-pail working men do when they feel they've been duped? You start a union.
In 1957, accompanied by Doug Harvey and other significant parts of this movement, an NHL union would start but wasn't formed till a decade later in 1967. They demanded for basics such as minimum wages and pension plans, but this selfless act didn't come without sacrifice. Leafs owner Conn Smythe called the group commies -- and Detroit's gm Jack Adams stripped Ted Lindsay of captaincy, shipping him out to the Windy City where Chicago sat in last place. To the average millennial, this may sound like all the NHL awards are going to war, but this was the most transformative moment in the NHL.
However, he wasn't done fighting yet. After retiring as a Red Wing, he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967. When he was told his children and wife couldn't attend because it was stag only, he declined the invite causing a stir, which led to the rule change the following year; women and children now allowed.
Firstly, can you imagine an awards ceremony exclusive to male hockey players? Walking into a banquet hall, shirtless men everywhere drinking whiskey, heartily slapping each other on the ass, roaring with laughter as cigar stubs dangle from their mouths.
Although Teddy, being the ultimate gentlemen, knew his wife and kids sacrificed far too much to not be allowed to celebrate. He put his foot down and demanded more change. Within a year, wives and children were now allowed. This change was significant. Athletes started arriving on time and menu items at the ceremony randomly got way healthier. The cups of tobacco discharge that littered the ceremony before was now replaced by Fiji water -- the NHL was becoming more progressive.
Walking away from his battles was foreign territory, he took on everyone from capitalist in the ol' boys club of the NHL, to thugs in the streets of Toronto. Sharing this insane story with McDavid and Burns this past summer in an excerpt from The Athletic.
Due to his humility and humbleness, he leaves the part out about celebrating with his stick as a rifle after getting the game-tying goal. That has to be the most gangster response to a death threat. Terrible Ted never backed down.
The NHL would later honour him in 2008, changing the Lester B. Pearson award to the Ted Lindsay award for MVP of the league voted by the players. Having the players vote you the MVP is the most prestigious achievement -- having that trophy named after you is the only thing that could top that.
Congrats on an incredible career, Teddy. Rest in Paradise.