Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 19
The Stanley Cup Journal

A fierce competitor driven to excellence, Ted Lindsay played 1,068 regular season NHL games, scoring 379 goals and 472 assists for 851 points, and added 1,808 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, 'Terrible Ted's' production accelerated -- he scored 47 goals and 49 assists for 96 points while serving 194 minutes in penalties through 133 post-season contests. (Imperial Oil-Turofsky/HHOF)
Ted Lindsay left an immense hockey legacy when he retired from the Detroit Red Wings following the 1964-65 season. One of the greatest leftwingers in the history of the game, Lindsay contributed to four Stanley Cup championships, won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 1949-50 and was selected to an NHL All-Star team on nine occasions.

But possibly even more important to hockey's storied history, and especially in light of this past season's lock-out, may be the fact that Ted Lindsay initiated the first National Hockey League Players' Association. "Mr. Campbell (NHL president) always talked about how we had the greatest pension in the world," starts Ted. "He always told us what a great pension we had and told us we were not to fraternize with members of the opposite teams."

"For example," explains Lindsay, "If we were in Toronto, I might be walking down to (Maple Leaf) Gardens. If a Toronto player came out of the building and if he saw me or I saw him, one of us would cross the street so we didn't have to acknowledge each other. That's the right way to play hockey. That was our attitude."

Agents didn't exist in the 1940's and '50's, so all negotiations were between the player and the general manager. "It was a dictatorship during the six-team league," Ted states. "They (the owners) would say, 'Jump,' and you'd say, 'How high and how many times?' All any player in that six-team league wanted to do was play hockey. That was our livelihood. They gave us our contracts. They said, 'Take it, that's all you're going to get.'"

"I talked to Bob Feller, who was head of the American League Baseball Players' Association. They had a great association. I'm not Einstein by any means, but I'm also not stupid. I wanted to show the owners that we wanted to negotiate something but we weren't demanding to run the league. We just wanted to have a voice. After talking with Bob (Feller), he put me in touch with lawyers in New York. If the laws we have today would have been in place back then, all the owners and managers would have been in jail. It was like slavery back then. To form a players' association when you didn't speak to each other, that becomes very difficult. Ninety-nine percent of the players were Canadians and once the season was over, we spread out across Canada and you wouldn't see your teammates until the next September in training camp. I wanted to be able to get a voice so we could sit down."

Lindsay was respected but disliked as a competitor throughout the league. For 'Terrible Ted' to pull together enough competitors to form a players' association was going to be extremely difficult. "The All-Star Game was always played before the season started. The Stanley Cup winner played against the All-Stars. That year (1955) the All-Star Game was going to be in Detroit because we won the Stanley Cup. Doug Harvey (of the Montreal Canadiens) was one of the more intelligent guys in the National Hockey League. Doug was a strong force. I got to Doug and told him what I had in mind and with the top players all coming into Detroit, we wanted to be able to sit down quietly -- this was not to be publicized; nobody was to know we were doing this. We did it and it worked out. You had to put $100 in because we had to pay the lawyers. To get $100 out of the players back in those days was tough. We were only making $5,500 to $7,500 (per year)."

1949-50 -- a banner year for Ted Lindsay and the Detroit Red Wings: leading scorer in NHL, First Team All-Star, Stanley Cup champion for the first of four times. (Dave Sandford/HHOF)
"We had the meeting and everybody joined but one," Ted says. "This was October. There never were any games played on Monday, Tuesday or Friday. Those were travel days. We had the press conference on Monday night in New York City. All the player representatives flew in and that's the first the owners knew anything about it. And believe me, that was a miracle. They never got wind of it and I think that hurt them, that we could keep a secret like that."

"All the guys went back to their rinks and I went back to Detroit the next day. I knew darn well when I got to the Olympia (the home arena of the Red Wings at that time) there was going to be a war in there. Sure enough, (Jack) Adams was steaming around in the dressing room. It looked like somebody painted him with a red paint brush because his blood pressure was so up so much. He started to condemn it all."

"Pressure was put on to break us for forming this association," Lindsay explains. "The threats got greater. Finally, I got traded to Chicago and so was Jimmy Thomson from Toronto. Then, as more pressure was added, the guys started to realize that we had to have a union. We were an international sport so we had to certify in Canada and we had to certify in the United States."

"We picked Toronto as the place to certify in Canada. We picked Detroit in the U.S.," adds Ted. When a couple of the Red Wing players broke rank and decided not to continue supporting a National Hockey League Players' Association, the dissension formed a crack and proved to be the ultimate demise of Ted Lindsay's best laid plans. "I was in Chicago at the time. If I had known that Detroit was going to turn out like that, I would have done it in Chicago. The situation in Detroit was what hung us."

Lindsay was martyred for his intentions. In spite of enjoying his best personal season and finishing second in scoring to Gordie Howe, Lindsay was exiled to Chicago, who had finished last for the fourth straight season. Although the Players' Association did not fly at that point, by 1967, it took hold and stuck, forming a unified collection of players that has served its membership well through the past thirty-eight years. Today's National Hockey League Players' Association was built upon a foundation first laid by Ted Lindsay.

* * *

Ted Lindsay, son of outstanding goalkeeper Bert Lindsay, was born July 29, 1925 in Renfrew, Ontario. He celebrated his milestone birthday at Cheboygan, Michigan with his family and friends...and
the Stanley Cup! (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Ted Lindsay enjoyed a celebration of a different sort on Friday, July 29 — it was his 80th birthday!

The Stanley Cup was taken to the beautiful cottage belonging to Lindsay's daughter Lynn and her husband Lou in Cheboygan, a community of 5,000 on Mullet Lake in Northern Michigan. The original community was built on an aboriginal settlement belonging to the Chippewa tribe. In the native tongue, the tribe referred to themselves as 'cehboys' and called water 'gan.' The terms were bastardized and the area became referred to as 'cheboys-gan' — river of the Chippewas.

Ted's immediate family was there to help him celebrate — wife Joanne, his children and grandchildren. At dinner-time, the Stanley Cup was taken down to the dock so that boaters passing by the cottage property would get the chance to see it. The Cheboygan River never had a traffic jam until that day — boats of every size and description made their way to the area to capture a glimpse of hockey's highest honour.

At the cottage owned by his daughter and son-in-law on Mullet Lake, Ted showed local boaters hockey's
greatest prize. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The extended Lindsay family returned to the cottage for a barbecue that lasted until dusk. The Cup was tucked away for the night with a full itinerary scheduled for the following day.

By 9:30 on the morning of Saturday, July 30, Ted and the Stanley Cup were meeting fans at the Cheboygan Ice Arena. For $5, residents could get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup. For an extra $5, Ted would either get in the photo too or sign an autograph. All money raised went to support women's hockey in the area.

Ted's immense popularity forced the signing to continue half an hour past its scheduled conclusion, but by 12:30, the Stanley Cup was accompanying Ted back to his daughter's cottage. By 3:00 that afternoon, eighty people had congregated to celebrate Lindsay's milestone birthday. A catered meal of steak was prepared and an incredible customized birthday cake sat ready for slicing.

Icing took on a whole new meaning to Lindsay as he blew out the candles on his custom-designed birthday cake. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
"Hey, Ted. Let's get the champagne flowing," suggested a friend as he poured the beverage of champions into Lord Stanley's chalice. "You go ahead but I'm not going to," replied Ted. "It's not my year winning the Cup."

The grandchildren hovered over the Stanley Cup, discovering some of the greats — like their granddad — who had earned the right to have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup. "Hey Grandpa, your name is spelled wrong on the Cup," said one of the kids, astounded. "Let's see that," said a curious Lindsay, who looked at the 1949-50 Stanley Cup champions and noted his name spelled 'Ted Lindsey.' "Well I'll be darned!" The family checked each year that Ted had won the Cup — 1949-50, 1951-52, 1953-54 and 1954-55. The rest were all spelled correctly.

"I was captain for those last two Stanley Cups," Ted stated. "Sid Abel was captain for my first two." The line of Abel, Lindsay and Gordie Howe was tagged the 'Production Line' and was one of the highest-scoring lines of that era. In 1949-50, Ted's first year winning the Stanley Cup, the trio finished first, second and third in NHL scoring. "Winning the scoring championship was a team thing. In this case, it was a line thing. The Production Line of Sid (Abel) at centre ice and Gordie (Howe) on the right side and myself at left wing -- we were one, two, three in scoring. You're playing with the best hockey players in the world; you're playing against the best hockey players in the world. That was a great thrill."

Ted, a spry and fit 80 years old, visited the Cheboygan Ice Arena to sign autographs and show fans the Stanley Cup. Money raised went to support women's hockey. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The evening was drawing to a close as Ted reminisced about what the Stanley Cup meant to him. "To win the Stanley Cup was a dream," grinned the birthday boy. "When I was growing up, I never really dreamed about winning the Stanley Cup because I never really dreamed I'd play in the National Hockey League. I just followed one day, one month, one year after another and I kept getting better. But winning the Stanley Cup was just tremendous because you're recognized as part of the best team in the world and I was part of that team that contributed winning the Stanley Cup for Detroit."

Ted Lindsay celebrated his eightieth birthday with the Stanley Cup this summer, but it was the fiery winger who gave hockey one of its greatest gifts. By staring into the eyes of the owners and defying their power, Ted Lindsay helped break the stranglehold management had on players through the Original 6 era, and it could only take someone with tremendous talent, guts and determination to make it happen — someone like Ted Lindsay.

* * *

On Friday, the Stanley Cup Journal will travel to Thunder Bay, Ontario where three of Ted Lindsay's former teammates each enjoyed a day with the most treasured trophy in sports — the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Shea is the Manager of Publishing and Editorial Services for the Hockey Hall of Fame

Spirit Of Hockey, shop online now!
Find out about renting the facilities at the Hockey Hall of Fame
Donate your hockey artifacts to the Hockey Hall of Fame