Ted Lindsay, Hall of Fame scorer who powered Red Wings, dies at 93

Detroit Red Wings captain Ted Lindsay hugged the Stanley Cup after his team defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3, in overtime to win the Stanley Cup finals in 1954.
Associated Press file
Detroit Red Wings captain Ted Lindsay hugged the Stanley Cup after his team defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3, in overtime to win the Stanley Cup finals in 1954.

NEW YORK — Ted Lindsay, a Hall of Fame player who packed a fierce combativeness in a slight frame as he helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup four times and as he pioneered the first NHL players’ union, died Monday at his home in Oakland Township, Mich. He was 93.

Lew LaPaugh, a son-in-law and the president of the Ted Lindsay Foundation, which raises money for autism research, confirmed the death.

Tagged “Terrible Ted,’’ Mr. Lindsay played 17 seasons in the National Hockey League, 14 of them with the Red Wings, coming out of retirement for the final one. He was the first NHL player to play 1,000 games, a first-team All Star eight times, and a participant in 11 All-Star Games. The Red Wings named him their captain.


Mr. Lindsay could be scrappy off the ice as well. In the mid-1950s, he led an initially unsuccessful effort to create a players’ union, for which he paid a price.

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In Detroit, Mr. Lindsay is revered as part of a celebrated triumvirate, the Production Line, in which he played left wing alongside Gordie Howe at right wing and Sid Abel at center. He was the last surviving member of that trio.

All three were elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Mr. Lindsay in 1966, a year after his final retirement, when the three-year waiting period for eligibility was waived.

In 1950, he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s scoring champion; Abel finished second, and Howe third. In all, in 1,068 regular-season games, Mr. Lindsay recorded 379 goals and 472 assists for 851 points, making him at the time the highest-scoring left wing.

A battler on the ice, perhaps to compensate for his size — 5-foot-8 and about 165 pounds — he was heavily penalized, too. He spent 1,808 minutes in the penalty box, the equivalent of 30 games.


“I was born a poor loser,” he told The New York Times in 1973, explaining his feistiness. “I wouldn’t talk to anyone who wasn’t on my team.”

Bill Chadwick, a Hall of Fame referee, spent many nights trying to keep Mr. Lindsay under control. “Ted was a mean hockey player,” Chadwick once said, “but he was the kind of guy I would have wanted to play for me. He’d do anything to get the puck in the net.”

Robert Blake Theodore Lindsay was born on July 29, 1925, in Renfrew, Ontario, the home of one of professional hockey’s best teams in its early years, the Renfrew Millionaires. Ted’s father, Bert, was a star goaltender for the team and played as well in the early NHL. His mother, Maude (Villemarie) Lindsay, was a homemaker.

In 1929, with the onset of the Depression, the family moved to Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where Bert Lindsay worked in the gold mines and where Ted grew up.

After two years in junior hockey, he joined the Red Wings at 19 in 1944 and remained with them until 1957. That was the year Mr. Lindsay led a group that tried to establish a union.


Mr. Lindsay took his plans to Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters union boss, who told him that professional athletes did not need a union. Jack Adams, the Red Wings’ longtime general manager, had another response: He traded Lindsay to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Mr. Lindsay recalled that in his first game against his old team, he smacked Howe over the head. Howe remembered, too. “I laid him out,” Howe said. “Then I asked him if this was the way he wanted to play.”

Mr. Lindsay got up off the ice, he said, and replied, “No, I guess it’s not worth breaking up a friendship.”

After the trade, the new NHL Players’ Association filed a $3 million federal antitrust suit, calling the league a dictatorship. Four months later, in February 1958, the players dropped the suit and plans for a union when the club owners agreed to a $7,000 salary minimum and a 60-percent increase in pension benefits.

The players now have a union, the National Hockey League Players’ Association, and the average salary is about $3 million a year.

Mr. Lindsay played three seasons in Chicago (1957-60), retired for four seasons and returned to Detroit for one more, 1964-65.

‘‘It didn’t matter that they traded me,’’ Mr. Lindsay said in 1995. ‘‘I have a Red Wing on my forehead and on my behind and on my heart. That will never change.’’

During his time in Detroit, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955, beating the Montreal Canadiens the last three years. In 133 playoff games, Mr. Lindsay had 47 goals and 49 assists for 96 points.

He is credited in 1950 with beginning the ritual in which the championship team skates around rink with the Stanley Cup. Mr. Lindsay downplayed his role, saying he simply wanted to bring the Cup closer to the fans.

‘‘I saw it sitting there, and I thought, ‘I'll just pick it up and I'll take it over.’ . . . I just moved along the boards. I didn’t have it over my head. I had it so they could read it,’’ he said in 2013. ‘‘I wasn’t starting a tradition, I was just taking care of my fans that paid our salary.’’

He later became general manager of the Red Wings (1977-80) and coached them for nine games in the 1979-80 season and 20 games in 1980-81. In later years, Mr. Lindsay was a television hockey analyst and a manufacturer’s representative.

In 2010, the NHL Players’ Association renamed its version of the Most Outstanding Player award after Mr. Lindsay.

‘‘On the ice, Ted Lindsay was one of the best players to ever to put on a pair of skates,’’ NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said. ‘‘But his greatest legacy was off the ice. A true trailblazer in seeking to improve conditions for all players, Ted was instrumental in organizing the original players’ association in 1957. All players, past, current and future, are in his debt.’’

When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mr. Lindsay declined to attend the banquet because it was an all-male event. The following year, the banquet was open to men and women.

‘‘That’s amazing,’’ Edmonton star Connor McDavid said. ‘‘That just goes to show what he’s about and he was not afraid to stand up to anyone and stand up for what he believed in.’’

Mr. Lindsay leaves a son, Blake; two daughters, Lynn Lindsay LaPaugh and Meredith Berman; a stepdaughter, Leslie Richardson; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

In their playing heyday, Mr. Lindsay, Howe, and Abel were good friends as well as Production Line teammates.

Howe saw them as the quintessence of teamwork. “They used to say that if you blindfolded us, we’d still be able to find one another,” he said. “All of us knew where everyone else was at any given moment. Maybe the closeness off the ice had something to do with it.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this obituary.