When I first began researching my book - Bob Goldham Outside the Goal Crease - the first person to go on my interview list was Bob's former teammate, Ted Lindsay. I had Ted's contact info, but reaching him was another matter. With each telephone call to the Lindsay household, I was advised that Ted was out and wouldn't be back until late in the evening. I didn't leave my number due to the fact I wanted to avoid playing telephone tag. There was an upside to not reaching Ted. I had the chance to talk with his wife, Joanne. She was most gracious taking calls from this unknown individual in Toronto. Call after call, the duration of our conversations expanded. We chatted about Ted and other topics that popped-up. As time passed, Joanne pinned Ted down and she arranged for Ted to be home on a Sunday for the interview.
The scout responsible for Ted Lindsay becoming a Detroit Red Wing was Carson Cooper. In 1943-44, young Ted was playing in the OHA with the St. Mike's Majors. He struggled at first in Junior "A" hockey, but turned things around when he returned after spending Christmas break in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.
"When I came back to St. Mike's, everything started to fall into place," Lindsay told me during the interview. "One night I'm playing in Hamilton and I had a couple of goals and a couple of fights." After the game, Lindsay came face-to-face with Carson Cooper. "The old Barton Street Arena had 25-watt lamps in the corridors under the seats and this white haired man stepped out. He said, 'I'm Carson Cooper, chief scout of the Detroit Red Wings. Have you thought of turning pro? I'm going to check with the National Hockey League and if your name isn't on any of the other teams list, I'll put your name on the Detroit Red Wings list.'"
In October 1944, Lindsay signed his first professional contract with the Red Wings and made his NHL debut. In his rookie season, Lindsay repaid Cooper for the faith he showed in him by scoring 17 goals.
Hearing how Lindsay became a member of the Red Wings, made me wonder how he escaped the long reach of Conn Smythe and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Especially, when he played in their backyard.
"I'm trying to make the team at St. Mike's and we're playing the Toronto Marlboros. I'm backchecking trying to impress my coach and that I know the game. Jimmy Thomson of the Marlboros went by Gus Mortson on our defence and he spun Gus around like he was a figure skater. The back of Mortson's skate punched into the calf muscle of my left leg."
This play sidelined Lindsay and resulted in most of his time being spent getting treatment. And it kept him away from the prying eyes of Frank Selke and Hap Day of the Leafs. Later, Selke told Lindsay the story of how the Leafs missed out on his services.
"I was on a train with Selke and he asked me, 'did you ever understand how you ended up in Detroit and not Toronto? We heard about this young player for St. Mike's, but we didn't know his name. Hap Day told me that St. Mike's was practicing at the Gardens, so we went down to see who's there.' I was in the infirmary and Selke was so impressed by our forward, Joe Sadler, that he added him to the Leafs negotiation list. There was no communication with the Leafs and I was eventually put on Detroit's list."
The Red Wings, led by the Production Line of Sid Abel, Gordie Howe and Lindsay, would become a hockey dynasty from the early to mid-1950s. They captured Stanley Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955. Lindsay's first Cup in 1950 came after he won the Art Ross Trophy (top scorer) and being named to the First All-Star Team at left wing. He was a First Team All-Star on 7 other occasions, the last being in 1957. His only Second All-Star Team selection was in 1949. Lindsay became an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
Bob Goldham never forgot Ted Lindsay and the skills he brought to the table. After retiring from the game, Goldham created a list of players he deemed as those "that had it all." The criteria encompassed every facet of the game. "The players that had it all are quite numerous, but I have to put Ted Lindsay at the top. He was a marvellous competitor, who never backed up an inch and could score as well."
Due to his fierce competitive nature and intensity, Lindsay earned the nickname "Terrible Ted" and there are many examples of why it applied to him. In a contest on February 7, 1957, Jerry Toppazzini's face was rearranged by Lindsay's stick. Toppazzini suffered severe facial injuries and was out of the line-up until the Bruins faced the Rangers on March 15, 1957.
Besides being a gifted player, Lindsay's impact was felt league-wide. In 1957, he spearheaded an attempt to form the first NHL Players Association. Unable to secure information on the players pension plan (1947-57), Lindsay took it upon himself to counter the owners. "I wanted everything for the players," Lindsay told me on that Sunday afternoon. "The owners knew what they were doing. We were too stupid to understand it, but some of us started to think. We just weren't organized. Every guy that played then loved the game of hockey. Money was a secondary thing."
As time moved on, Lindsay's relationship with Red Wings GM, Jack Adams, deteriorated. On the team level, Lindsay believed that Adams' roster moves were detrimental to Detroit's winning ways.
"You know those five Stanley Cups Montreal won after we won in 1955?" Lindsay asked, then without missing a beat, continued on with his thought. "Those should have been ours. Adams traded nine players from our Stanley Cup team. The guys that came in were nice, but we had winners. There are hockey players and there are winners."
And Lindsay didn't hesitate to express his opinion on this to one former Montreal Canadien player.
"I'd always say to Henri Richard, 'you got 11 Stanley Cup rings. You were lucky, because if Adams hadn't been so stupid and sent nine guys away from our Stanley Cup team, five of those Cups you won, we'd probably would have won.' Then Richard said, (Lindsay, speaking with a French accent) 'but Teddy, I've got the rings.'"
Lindsay's efforts to organzine his NHL brethren resulted in a relentless attack from Adams. And it reached an all-time low when his boss tried to turn his teammates against him.
"Glenn Hall was told one time by Adams, 'I don't want you speaking to Lindsay.' Hall replied, 'Mr. Adams, he has never done anything to me and if I want to speak to him, I'll speak to him.' That takes courage for a young hockey player to make that kind of statement to the manager. That was the kind of guy Glenn Hall was and those were the type of guys we had on our team and why we were so good."
Lindsay's strength of character and strong-mindedness is best articulated in this quote he provided during our talk. "I didn't play hockey because of Jack Adams. I played because I loved it." For his efforts, Lindsay was vanished by Adams to the cellar-dwelling Chicago Black Hawks in 1957. He returned Detroit to close out his playing career in 1964-65.
I couldn't help but question Lindsay about the goalie that preceded Glenn Hall.
"In the first five years of Terry Sawchuk's career, he was the greatest goaltender to ever play. But he was squirrelly. Marty Pavelich sat next to him in the room and he'd say hello to him five days in a row and Uke wouldn't say anything. Then, the next two days he'd ask 'Hi Marty, how are you'? Then, he would go into his cocoon again."
As Marty Pavelich told me in an interview for my Goldham book, "I could go to Teddy (Lindsay) and say, 'dammit keep your mouth shut tonight and don't get any dumb penalties.'" Any criticism was meant to help the team win.
Ted Lindsay passed away on March 4, 2019, at the age of 93.
His contributions to the game resulted in a trophy being renamed after him. The Ted Lindsay Award goes to the best player as voted by the National Hockey League Players' Association. A fitting tribute to Lindsay taking into account the hardships he suffered trying to organize players from his era.
In a posting on his Twitter account after Lindsay's death Wayne Gretzky wrote: "Terrible Ted" was one of the nicest men in hockey. Every player should be thankful for his courage to create the Players Association, which has grown into partnership between players and owners of the NHL. He was a true champion on and off the ice and will be deeply missed."