The hockey world awoke to sad news this Monday morning. NHL legend Ted Lindsay has passed away at the age of 93 years old. Although he might not have been a Devil, or even played when New Jersey had a franchise, his place in the hockey world and contribution to the NHL last to this day.
Lindsay was one of the most beloved Detroit Red Wings of all time, playing in the Motor City from 1944-1957, winning four Stanley Cups. Lindsay famously played left wing on Detroit’s “Production Line” during their glory years from 1947-1952 alongside Sid Abel at center and Gordie Howe at right wing. During the 1950 Stanley Cup championship, Lindsay himself started the tradition of the winning team skating around the ice with the Stanley Cup after its presentation. A 1957 trade sent him to the Chicago Blackhawks to play an additional three years before retiring in 1960. He came out of retirement for one last campaign with Detroit in the 1964-65 season.
Adding to the legend of Ted Lindsay was the controversy that surrounded his career. His playing days earned him the reputation as an aggressor who famously said that “there were no friends on the ice, they were all enemies.” His offensive prowess was mixed in with a playing style heavy on elbowing, kneeing, stick swinging and a plethora of other playing infractions that would make today’s NHL referees have a field day. Speaking of referees, Lindsay had a number of run-ins with them, as well as league management.
Lindsay’s name is most prevalent in the modern day NHL for the Ted Lindsay award, given by the members of the NHLPA for who they deem to be the league’s most valuable player. The award isn’t named lightly, as Lindsay was an early and vocal proponent of a league-wide players union at a time when league management, team owners and even players, including Lindsay’s teammate and friend Gordie Howe, were opposed to the idea. Although Lindsay would not succeed in his initial attempts at a players union, it did result in concessions from the NHL for better player compensation and conditions. This helped lay the groundwork for the formation of the National Hockey League Players Association in 1967.
Years after his playing days were over, Lindsay had a brief, yet largely unsuccessful stint with the Red Wings front office as both general manager and coach. In addition, he was also a color commentator for televised hockey broadcasts, but in true Ted Lindsay fashion, came under criticism for his support for the violent aspects on the game while in the broadcast booth. Overshadowing his short executive and television careers, Lindsay was known for his immense charitable nature, which included founding the Ted Lindsay Fountain to raise money for autism research. It prides itself on 87% of donations going directly to research, according to their website.
In 2017, Ted Lindsay was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history, a fitting bookend for a storied career and life. The NHL lost a legend, and Detroit lost a little bit of itself in Lindsay’s passing.