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WACTH: Obituary for Ted Lindsay

Red Wings legend and Hockey Hall of Famer dies at 93

Detroit Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay died overnight at age 93. 

He died while in hospice care in Oakland Township, Mich. 

Lindsay spent most of his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, helping them win four Stanley Cup championships.

"Ted was a persistent, courageous and determined man both on and off the ice. He was a man of many firsts. We are comforted in knowing that the Ted Lindsay legacy will forever be a part of history and are so proud of the many lives he helped change for the better through his tireless humanitarian work. Arrangements will be announced when they are finalized," reads a statement from his family.

  • Watch the full obituary video above. 

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Robert Blake Theodore "Ted" Lindsay was was born July 29, 1925 in Renfrew, Ontario, Canada. He was the youngest of five sons of the NHL's first goalie, Bert Lindsay, and his wife Maud.

Ted played junior hockey and won the 1944 Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals. During that season an injury forced the left winger off the roster just as the Toronto Maple Leafs went to scout him.

The Detroit Red Wings later discovered Ted, and it didn't hurt that he already was a Red Wings fan living in Leafs and Montreal Canadiens country. He listened to Red Wings games on WJR radio.

That was Ted: contrarian, independent, the traits he displayed all throughout his life. At 5-foot-7 and 163 pounds, Lindsay owned a lot of scars. The nickname "Terrible Ted" was earned due to his ferocious, unrelenting play. He collected 1,800 penalty minutes in a 17-year NHL career.

"I played it to win. And there were no friends on the ice, they were all enemies," he said.

The lightning-fast skater with a dead-eye shot made the first NHL All-Star team in 1947. He racked up nearly 1,000 career points. In 1950 he won the Art Ross trophy as the league's top scorer.

The Production Line, Cup-carrying

Lindsay really made his name in later years as a member of the Red Wings' famed Production Line. With Gordie Howe at right wing and Sid Abel at center, the trio led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups. Lindsay started putting his personal stamp on the entire league. Today, it's a tradition for players to carry the Stanley Cup around the ice after winning it. Terrible Ted started that.

"I just saw the Cup sitting there, so I just went over and picked it up, took it to the people on the boards. I wasn't starting a tradition. I was taking care of my fans," said Lindsay.

The Production Line: (left to right) Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay

Establishing players union

While Lindsay may have hated opponents on the ice, off the ice he felt owners were giving hockey players a raw deal. He started the movement that eventually gave way to the NHL players union. For that, Red Wings owner Jack Adams sent Lindsay packing to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. He played in Chicago for three years.

"I was treated very well by the Chicago fans. I didn't play as well, because I was still a Red Wings. I had it tattooed on the forehead, over my heart and on my backside," said Lindsay.

He retired from hockey in 1960 and went into private business. But Abel, Linsday's old linemate, took over as Red Wings coach in 1964.

"He said, 'Well why don't you come back and play.' I hadn't played for four years," Lindsay said.

He played pickup hockey in Windsor to stay in shape. He rejoined the Red Wings as No. 15, because his No. 7 had been taken.

The headlines called it a sideshow. Even league president Clarence Campbell doubted Ted.

"(Campbell called it) the blackest day in the league history, when a 39-year-old guy thinks he can play in the fastest game in the world," said Lindsay.

Lindsay had 14 goals and 14 assists that year, and Campbell apologized after the Red Wings won the season championship.

Lindsay then retired for good. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame the next year but refused to attend the ceremony because they held it in a men's-only club and his wife and kids could not be there.

The Ted Lindsay statue at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (WDIV)

Busy after hockey

He stayed very busy thereafter. He became a radio hockey voice in New York and then went on as a color commentator for NBC's NHL national coverage.

He left the booth to become Red Wings general manager for three years in the late 1970s.

Lindsay was known for always being in remarkable physical shape, even in his latest years. He worked out three days a week, even into his 90s.

"I always believed in taking care of your body -- it will take care of you," he said.

Lindsay wasn't so "terrible" as he aged. He had a real soft spot for children, raising more than $1 million to research autism. 

There are great NHL names -- Howe, Gretzky, Orr, Yzerman -- but without even trying or taking any credit, Lindsay sealed a special spot as a cornerstone in NHL history as he was a pioneer. They had to invent penalties to curb his toughness. He was team captain, champion and so much more.

Friendship with Howe

The year before Gordie Howe died at age 88 in 2016, Lindsay was publicly wishing his friend well after treatment.

"It's nice to have the opportunity to wish Gordie a happy birthday after he went to Mexico for his stem cell (treatment) and kind of had a miracle happen for him, and I hope that miracle continues for many, many years," said Lindsay.

Lindsay was referring to Howe's health improvement the year before his death as he participated in a stem cell clinical trial. The Howe family said "Mr. Hockey" had a miraculous recovery since a serious stroke in late October 2014. He died in June 2016.

Howe and Lindsay played together for several years in the 1940s and 50s, winning Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955. Along with center Sid Abel, the trio formed the first installment of the "Production Line," one of the most famous scoring lines in NHL history.

They were feared around the league for their physical play, too. But Lindsay knew Gordie as a kind man and friend.

"He's the kindest hockey player who ever played, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm a little prejudice," he said.


About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.